By Drake Skleba
For the Bugle 

Tigers four-run fourth inning, Hogan hold off valiant Minooka as Joliet West wins sectional semifinal 4-1


Last updated 6/10/2021 at 12:31am

On Wednesday in the IHSA Class 4A Sectional 6 semifinal at Minooka, Joliet West's 6-foot-7 super-sophomore southpaw Conner Hogan improved to 8-0 on the mound, pitching his Tigers to a 4-1 victory over the host Indians.

The Tigers scored all four of the runs Hogan would need in the top of the fourth inning.

Hogan scattered eight hits in his complete-game performance, allowing one unearned run, striking out seven and walking one.

Hogan used his quality baseball IQ to come up with the play of the game in the Minooka bottom of the sixth.

Trailing 4-1 in the bottom of the sixth, the never-say-die Indians loaded the bases with one out.

Senior Josh Davis hit a nubber in front of the plate, The 6-foot-7 Hogan bounced off the mound and had only one play available - to get the second out of the inning.

Hogan pushed the ball up with his glove and flipped it ahead to his hard-hitting catcher Ty Batusich, who was standing on the plate. Out No. 2 on the force at the plate. Hogan picked up his seventh punch-out of the game to quell the Indians' sixth-inning uprising.

"Conner would never have thought to make that play back in April," Joliet West coach John Karczewski said. "With no varsity experience, we worked with Conner, throughout the season in practice on that type of situation. Conner automatically made the huge play and probably saved the game for us."

In the seventh, the Indians were at it again.

Indian juniors Ivan Dahlberg and Mitch Thomas led off the seventh with singles to set the Indians up with runners on first and second and nobody out.

Problems? Not for the unflappable sophomore.

The Indian uprising was quelled again with a 1-2-3 inning and the Joliet West Tigers move on to a Friday Sweet 16 date in O'Fallon for the Sectional 6 Championship. O'Fallon (23-9) defeated the defending Class 4A state champions from Edwardsville 4-1, in Edwardsville.

"I had to make that play in the sixth inning," Hogan said. "The only thing I could do was flip the ball to Ty for the force out at the plate. When I give up a hit, I don't even think about it and I attack the next hitter. Attack. Attack - ever stop attacking the strike zone. That is was I think about when I'm on the mound.

"Nothing short of a sectional championship for us on Friday."

Minooka scored an unearned run in the bottom of the second when Gould (2-for-3, RBI) singled home Dahlberg, who had walked, for a 1-0 Indian lead.

Minooka starting pitcher, freshman right-hander Ryan Anderson, had no-hit the Tigers for 3 1/3 innings.

With one out, Batusich walked and senior Luke Coyl's seeing-eye-single set the Tigers up with runners on first and third for Tiger senior Matt "Moose" Stariha.

Stariha tied the game at 1-1 with an RBI single scoring Batusich. Senior Isaac Rios' bunt single then scored Coyl for a 2-1 Tigers lead.

"It feels great to be going to the Sweet 16," Stariha said. "Conner is simply amazing. He is just too good. We did our hitting in just the one inning but with Conner on the mound, it was enough to win. Down 1-0 with runners on first and second, I went up to the plate and there was no way I was not going to drive home the tying run.

"Our plan is to take the 5-hour bus ride to St. Louis and come home with the sectional championship."

Sectional 6 championship game Joliet West (20-10) at O'Fallon (23-9) Friday at 4:30 p.m. O'Fallon is located 18 miles east of St. Louis, Missouri on US 50 and I-64.

With two out, senior Manny Rincon came off the bench and drove home Stariha with a wicked RBI, pinch-hit single. With more clutch two-out hitting, freshman Jimmy Anderson ripped an RBI single to make it 4-1 Tigers.

"This is so exciting," Rincon said. "I have had medical problems on and off all year and to be back and contributing to our success is amazing. I came off the bench today and attacked the baseball for the RBI single in the fourth inning."

Anderson (2-4) reverted to his early form and no hit the Tigers for the rest of the game for a complete-game six hitter.

Minooka closed out a successful 19-11 season and an IHSA Class 4A Minooka Regional championship.

"The kids always laugh at me when I talk about my 2006 team did this or the 2012 team did that," Minooka coach Jeff Petrovic said. "Integrity, class and hard work are three words that describe the 2021 Minooka Indians. To the Indians in the future, they will here me talk about what the 2021 team did this or that. What an outstanding group of young men that I have been privileged to coach."

"I couldn't be more happy for our kids to have achieved this victory," Karczewski added. "Minooka got eight hits but didn't hit Connor hard. Coach Petro and his coaches and our kids and coaches all have outstanding relationships that go far beyond the baseball diamond. Our kids are not the most talented, but they have all season, have found a way to win. What can one say about Matt Stariha? Just a great kid who is so coachable and I love him to death. He got the game-tying hit and he was vacuum out there for us in the field. Manny Rincon, just like Matt, came through with the big, pinch-hit single to make it 3-1.

"O'Fallon. Edwardsville, I would go to Europe with these kids."


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