Buchan's 3-run bomb leads undefeated 'Cats past JCA in wild WJOL/Ladas quarter final
Last updated 4/20/2021 at 7:45am
In Monday's 12th Annual WJOL/Don Ladas Memorial Tournament quarterfinal, Joliet Catholic led the hosts from Plainfield Central 8-6 in the bottom of the sixth inning. The Hilltoppers had taken the two-run lead in the top half of the sixth inning on a Wildcat outfield miscue.
The first two Wildcat hitters were retired before seniors Josh Cunniff (1-for-4,R ) and Nate Sommerfeld (1-for-3,2R) both singled to put two on and two out for the 'Cats.
Stepping into the batter's box for the host Wildcats was their senior left fielder Nate Buchan.
"I went up to the plate with the idea that anything can happen if I just put the ball in play," Buchan said.
Taking the count full to 3-2, Buchan put the ball in play, sending the 3-2 pitch over the left-center field fence for a three-run home run giving Plainfield Central (3-0) a 9-8 lead.
"I took the count full and swung the bat and the ball went over the left field fence," Buchan said, "I want to thank my teammates for this great win over JCA."
In the top of the seventh, Wildcat junior LHP Josh Culbertson (1-0) walked the Hilltopper leadoff man.
Culbertson pIcked up his fifth strikeout for the first out of the inning, a ground ball out for out No. 2 and end the game with a flourish with his sixth strikeout. Culbertson gave up two hits and three unearned runs in his 2 2/3 innings of relief to pick up the win.
"What a great game for us to win on Nate's three-run homer," Culbertson said. "I knew I was going to get the strikeout to end the game. My fastball was my best pitch tonight. What a great win."
The all-day showers that fell on Plainfield, but stopped right before the first pitch, had a definite impact on the game.
The wet grass led to wet baseballs, which led to throwing errors for both teams that led to the runs and both teams were deadlocked at 2-2 heading to the bottom of the fourth.
In the bottom of the fourth, Plainfield Central (3-0) resorted to a little two-out Wildcat magic.
Buchan (2-4 2R, HR 3RBI) led off the fourth with a single and scored on the fifth Hilltoppers miscue for a 3-2 Wildcat lead. After two out, No. 9 hitter, Brandon Leidolph delivered with a single, scoring senior Leroy Jordan (2-for-2,R,SF,RBI) who had singled for a 4-2 lead.
Tough-luck Wildcat starting pitcher, senior Tanner Wagnon, delivered some more two out magic when he ripped a clutch two-out, two-run double for a 6-2 Wildcat lead.
The never-say did Hilltoppers would answer.
JCA senior shortstop Ben Stoner (2-for 2, 2BB,2R, HR, 2RBI), hammered a two-run bomb to left to pull The Hill within 6-4 in the top of the fifth. The Hill pulled to within 6-5 on a steal of home by Brody Munch (1-for-4, R, SB).
Culbertson relieved Wagnon with one out and retired the last two Hilltopper batters in the fifth.
In the top of the sixth, Hilltopper left fielder Clemente Torrez singled to lead off the JCA sixth and scored on a wild pitch to tie the score at 6-6.
With one out, centerfielder Luka Radicevich doubled and with two outs, Stoner walked.
Disaster struck for Culbertson and the 'Cats when Munch hit a routine fly ball to center, that was misplayed and Radicevich and Stoner would dance across the plate for an 8-6 Hilltopper lead.
All's well that end's well for Central because of the big blast from Buchan, the 6-foot-2 left fielder.
Back to Wildcat senior first baseman, Leroy Jordan. With Leroy's 2-for-2 today, the red-hot Wildcat is now 8-for-9 on the season, leading the entire area now with an .889 batting average.
"I want to thank all of my teammates who push me to be better," Jordan said. "What a wild game. All the adversity we faced and to have Nate win it for us, is incredible."
"I am so happy for these kids, who did not have a season last year and to have played in an outstanding baseball game today, is so gratifying for me," Plainfield Central head coach John Rosner said. "To have gone through all the ups and downs. The adversity. The success and to win the game on Nate's three-run homer, is amazing.
"Leroy Jordan has worked so hard to make himself the hitter he is today. We would not be 3-0 without his tremendous start to the season."
Up next for the Wildcats will be a WJOL/Don Ladas Memorial Tournament semifinal against the Minooka Indians (1-2) at Plainfield Central on Wednesday at 4:30 p.m.
The Hilltoppers will take on the Steelmen of Joliet Central (1-2) in a 5th place semifinal at JCA, on Wednesday at 4:30.