When a team reaches the state tournament with double digit losses on its regular season ledger, the conversation often shifts to how the strength of that team’s schedule played a significant role in how they got there.
Joliet Catholic qualified for this year’s IHSA Class 2A State Tournament, with a 25-11 record, and the robust season schedule definitely gets a hat tip from head coach Jared Voss in regards to preparing his team for what has been a dominant run through the 2A bracket to this point.
“We aren’t going to run into a situation right now where we’re going to see something we haven’t seen before,” Voss said after his team rumbled past a then 31-2 Brimfield squad in the Geneseo Super-Sectional on Monday. “Our schedule prepares us pretty well.”
The Hilltoppers are hoping the amazing performance of its pitching staff in the postseason can continue at Dozer Park in Peoria for two more games. The first is a semifinal against Columbia (27-6-1) on Friday at 5 p.m. A victory there would put Joliet Catholic in Saturday’s championship game against either Richmond-Burton (31-5) and Maroa-Forsyth (32-1).
Joliet Catholic’s road to the state tournament has been a series of spectacular pitching performances. Led by back-to-back no hitters from staff ace TJ Schlageter (8-2, 2.52 ERA) in both the regional and sectional championship games the Hilltoppers are currently riding a string of four consecutive shutouts. They’ve allowed just three runs in five postseason games, all to Wilmington in their postseason opening regional semifinal matchup against Reed-Custer.
Sophomore Jake Gimbel (6-2. 2.89), who threw six scoreless innings in the Supersectional win, Jake Spotofora (2-0, 1.06) and Dom Coda (3-0, 1.47) are key components on the staff as well.
“They keep us in every game and give us a chance,” Voss said. “We’ve just got to try to keep it rolling.”
Friday’s game against Columbia should provide some notable offensive challenges to JCA’s impressive pitching string. Columbia has four regulars hitting over .325 and outslugged Freeburg, a team many favored to make a state title run, 15-7 in the supersectional round to advance to state.
Kyle McConachie leads Columbia with a .409 batting average, but it appears that Dom Voegele might be the real potential thorn in Joliet Cathollic’s side. Voegele is hitting .387 this season, but nearly half of his hits this season have gone for extra bases.
Voegele also serves as the staff ace for Columbia, entering the state tournament with an 8-3 record and a 1.91 earned run average with 91 strikeouts.
Senior Logan Mueller (6-0, 2.88) and sophomore Lucas Riebling (6-0, 0.70) also are key arms for the Eagles.
Joliet Catholic’s offense hasn’t been needed to produce much to insure victory with the plethora of quality pitching that the Hilltoppers have delivered. Even so, Joliet Catholic has posted 39 runs in the postseason and has only been pushed by one opponent this season that hails from the lower two classifications as the Hilltoppers beat Class 1A State qualifier Ottawa Marquette 5-4 on April 20.
Leading hitters for Joliet Catholic are Tommy Kemp (.460), Jackson Cullen (.352) and Luka Radicevich (14 extra base hits).
Source: The Daily Chronicle