Cougars, Kelliher overcome Mother Nature and the 'Ville,12-6, to claim 2021 Class 4A Plainfield South Regional crown
Last updated 6/8/2021 at 11:37am
In their IHSA 2021 Class 4A Plainfield South Regional Championship game, the host Cougars fell behind 6-0 after 1 1/2 innings of play.
Cougar senior right-handed starting pitcher Tylor Phommachanhom was knocked out after giving up six runs, three earned, and seven hits in just two innings of work.
Enter Cougars junior right-hander Matt Kelliher.
Kelliher (4-2), from his first pitch of the game, through his game-ending pitch to close out Romeoville in the top of the seventh was a man possessed.
Kelliher fired five hitless innings in relief, striking out 10 Spartan hitters and leading the Cougars to a 12-6, Plainfield South Regional championship victory.
With the game tied at 6-6 in the bottom of the sixth, Cougar senior Cooper Schmid, having singled, was on second base with one out. Romeoville reliever Nate Schuster had a 1-2 count on Cougars senior Gio Herrera with one out.
Then, Mother Nature made an appearance on Plainfield's South Side.
For 60-minutes, the two teams were delayed by lightning in the area.
When the game resumed, the host Cougars scored six times in the sixth inning to put the regional championship in the win column.
Herrera struck out for the second out of the inning.
Phommachanhom was intentionally walked and Jepsen walked to load the bases. Senior Jeremy McGuigan forced the eventual game-winning run home with a bases loaded walk for a 7-6 Cougars lead.
It was the 14th base on balls the Cougars received from the Spartans in the game.
"With the lead run on third, I forced myself to be very patient to get the walk that gave us the lead," McGuigan said.
"I'm very proud of the way our kids jumped out to the 6-0 lead," Romeoville coach Mike Skroch said. "We just couldn't throw enough strikes today. Plainfield South is too good to give so many free opportunities to score as we did today. That has been our problem in the games we have lost. We have lost 19 games this season, but we have battled and have been in most of those games right to the end. I am very proud of what our kids accomplished this season."
After being out of the lineup with a broken finger for two weeks, Cougars senior catcher Brennan Phillips (1-1, 3 BB, HBP, RBI) ripped a two-out RBI single to give the Cougars an 8-6 lead and a Spartan miscue made it 9-6. Phillips had the walk-off RBI single that gave the Cougars a 4-3 win over Batavia in Wednesday's regional semifinal game.
Junior Zander Tubbs was next.
Tubbs blasted his fourth home run of the season, his second of the regional, with a pair of Cougars on to give South the 12-6 lead.
"I went up to the plate with the idea to give some more insurance for Matt (Kelliher) in the seventh," Tubbs said. "It felt good to hit the three-run homer."
Kelliher picked up his 10th punch-out for the first out of the seventh inning. A fly ball to Schmid in left for out No. 2.
Spartans starting pitcher Nick Kolze hit a roller to Phommachanhom at shortstop and after he fired a strike to Cougars first baseman Max Peters for the final out, the Cougars (18-6) were the 2021 IHSA Plainfield South Regional champions.
"Down 6-0, there was no way I was going to allow Romeoville to score again," Kelliher said. "It was amazing, all through my performance, how loud our fans were, how amazing my teammates were as they kept cheering me on. What a great regional championship victory."
"Matt (Kelliher) just came into the game and slammed the door on Romeoville," Phillips said. "Matt was amazing. It feels so great for me to after being out for two weeks with the broken finger to contribute at the plate and behind it to our regional championship."
The Spartans of Romeoville entered Monday's game with an 11-18 record. After 1 1/2 of innings of play, the Spartans, with a 6-0 lead over the 17-6 host Cougars of Plainfield South did not look like a team that finished seven games under .500 and in fifth-place in the Southwest Prairie East.
The Spartans quickly went to work on South's Phommachanhom.
Clutch back-to back two-out doubles from senior Dylan Scafuri (1-3, 2B, RBI) and Kolze (2-for-4, 2B 4RBI) made it 3-0 Spartans.
In the second inning, the Spartans extended their lead to 6-0 as the 'Ville picked up three unearned runs against Phommachanhom, highlighted by a another clutch, two-run single from Kolze.
On the mound Kolze (3 IP. 5R, 2H, 1ER, 6K, 8BB) had control problems.
The Cougars picked up their first run of the game when senior Riley Jepsen (0-2, RBI 3BB) walked with the bases loaded. The Cougars closed to 6-4, scoring three times, two unearned runs, in the bottom of the third. Herrera came up with a clutch, two-out RBI single to pull South within 6-4.
Meanwhile, the whirling dervish Kelliher was blowing away Spartan hitters with his high-velocity fastball.
In the bottom of the fourth, Kolze hit Cougar centerfielder Jeremy McGuigan (0-2, 2BB, HBP, G-W RBI) and walked senior catcher Brennan Phillips (1-1,3BB, HBP, RBI) to end his day on the mound.
Schuster relieved Kolze and the Cougars pulled within 6-5 on a Spartans passed ball.
In the fifth, South tied the game at 6-6 on a sacrifice fly from junior Tubbs.
Kelliher walked two and struck out three in the top of the sixth.
With the win, the Cougars will host Tuesday's winner between Plainfield North (17-11) and Yorkville (14-12), who will play for the 2021 IHSA Plainfield North Regional championship game, in a sectional semifinal Wednesday.
"The game was all about Matt Kelliher," Plainfield South coach Phil Bodine said. "Matt was simply overpowering today. He had his palm ball working before the rain delay and went with his fastball in the seventh. We were down 6-0 early but I felt confident we would come back. We had great approaches at the plate to get the 14 bases on balls to get the win. We had some clutch hits, too. Romeoville is a fine team and they have three or four players we would love to have in our lineup.
"Puma didn't have it today, but we feel very confident to have him back on the mound against Plainfield North or Yorkville here on Wednesday."