By Drake Skleba
For the Bugle 

Tigers sweep away Plainfield South for SPC East title share behind fantastic-frosh Anderson


Last updated 5/21/2021 at 7:35am

Entering Monday's crucial Southwest Prairie Conference Eastern Division three-game series, the Tigers of Joliet West and the defending SPC champion Cougars of Plainfield South were tied atop the SPC East with identical 8-1 records.

In 11 thrilling-innings on Monday, on Plainfield's south side, the Tigers slipped past the Cougars 2-1.

On Tuesday, on Joliet's West Side, the Tigers won going away 8-4 as Mother Nature provided an annoying, seven-inning drizzle on the proceedings.

On Thursday, back in Plainfield, Joliet West (14-7, 11-1) was looking for the series sweep and with the win, the Tigers would clinch at least a share of the SPC East title.

Tigers coach John Karczewski handed the ball to his right-handed freshman pitcher Jimmy Anderson to bring home the big win. Anderson entered the game with a 2-1 record and a miniscule 1.34 ERA.

Behind Anderson, the Tigers would sweep-away the defending SPC-champs 12-2. The win was the Tigers sixth consecutive win and their 12th win in their last 15 games, since an 11-1 drubbing to Joliet Catholic, in the fifth-place game, of the 14th Annual WJOL/Don Ladas Memorial Tournament, on April 22.

Anderson would fire 6 2/3 innings, allowing six hits with eight strikeouts. Both Cougar runs were unearned.

With the win the fantastic-frosh improves to 3-1 on the season and lowered his ERA to 1.00.

With the win the Tigers open up a three-game lead over Plainfield South (13-4, 8-4) with each team having three SPC East games remaining.

After four innings, this one was dead locked at 2-2 as Anderson was involved in a pitcher's-duel with the Cougar's starter Matt Kelliher (2-2).

Junior Preston Vowell (2-for-2, 2B, 3RBI) got the Tigers on the board with a clutch, two-out RBI single, scoring fellow junior Manny Rincon (2-for-5, 2RBI), who singled to lead off the top of the second.

The Cougars grabbed the lead with two unearned runs off of Anderson in the bottom of the third inning.

Cougar senior shortstop Tylor Phommachanhom (2-for-4,2B, RBI) tied the game at 1-1 with a one-out RBI double, Kelliher's RBI ground-out scored Cougar second baseman Tyler Jepsen (3-for-4), who had reached on a Tiger miscue, to give Plainfield South a 2-1 lead after three innings.

Vowell tied the game at 2-2 with a perfectly-placed suicide squeeze bunt scoring Rincon, who had reached on a Cougar miscue, in the top of the fourth.

"I really had been in a slump at the plate as of late," Vowell said. "Before the game I focused on making some adjustments at the plate. On the RBI single, I looked for and took the curve ball into left to get us on the board. I was really happy with my great bunt to tie the game."

Rincon struck again with a clutch, one-out RBI single to give the Tigers a 3-2 lead in the top of the fifth scoring Lucas Coyl, who had walked.

"I just went up to the plate with the thought of just putting the ball and play. I was happy to get he hit and drive home the lead run," Rincon said.

Coach Karczewski, would grab an insurance-run on what we have called for year's in the Joliet area, "Bodine Ball"

Plainfield South Hall of Fame head coach Phil Bodine, has been winning games for his Cougars, with his favorite weapon, the bunt.

Tigers senior Isaac Rios' (2-for-3, RBI), perfectly-placed suicide squeeze bunt scored senior Matt Stariha (3-for-5, 2B) who had doubled, for a 4-2 Tigers lead. On a Kelliher wild pitch scoring a run, the Tigers would extend their lead to 5-2, after 4 1/2 innings.

"Phil (Bodine) has had our number over the years and beaten us with the bunt," Karczewski said. "We beat him today, with a little "Bodine Ball" Great execution by Preston (Vowell) and Isaac (Rios) on their bunts."

The Tigers would blow the game open with a six-run sixth, highlighted by an RBI double from Vowell.

Freshman James Love would hammer a blast, for his first home run of the season, that gave the Tigers a 12-2 lead, in the top of the seventh.

Anderson retired the first two Cougars in the bottom of the seventh before allowing a base on balls and two singles to load the bases with two outs.

Stariha entered the game in relief and threw one pitch to retire the final Cougar hitter and the Tigers lowered their magic number to 1 for an out-right SPC East title.

"I am very fortunate to have an offense that scores a lot of runs for me," Anderson said. "They really take the pressure off of me. Today, my change-up and curve ball were my best pitches. I kept South off-balance and most of my strikeouts were on my off-speed pitches. It's been a long-time since Joliet West has won a conference baseball championship. It would be amazing if we could win a conference championship in my freshman year."

"The loss to Joliet Catholic was a wake-up call for us," Vowell added. "We woke up and have been playing great baseball ever since."

"After we were trounced by Joliet Catholic we really came together as a team," Rincon said. "We were enraged over the loss and formed a brotherhood to never allow that to happen to us again. We are playing as well as any team in the state right now."

"After the first two weeks of the season, I was ready to give it up," Karczewski added. "The Joliet Catholic loss and then we picked up a couple of big wins over Romeoville and we have been playing great ever since. The most impressive thing about Jimmy, is his poise on the mound for being only 15-years old."


JOLIET WEST 14-7 11-1

24 Plainfield Central 25 AT Plainfield Central 27 PLAINFIELD CENTRAL



PLAINFIELD C. 14-7 7-5



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