Joliet Catholic's George Manikas delivers a pitch against Prospect in a Phil Lawler Summer semifinal. | Jon Langham~For Sun-Times Media
Prospect denied Joliet Catholic once, but the Hilltoppers weren’t going to be stymied twice.
One batter after having the potential winning run thrown out at the plate, Joliet Catholic got a walk-off hit from Drake Fellows and beat Prospect 3-2 on Wednesday night at Benedictine.
That sent the Hilltoppers (18-0) to Thursday’s 7 p.m. final of the Phil Lawler Summer Classic, also at Benedictine.
Joliet Catholic, looking to become the first unbeaten summer state champ, will face East Suburban Catholic Conference rival Nazareth (24-11), a 12-1 winner over Prairie Ridge in the other semifinal.
Joliet Catholic fell behind 2-0 in the second inning when Prospect (26-7-1) got RBI singles from Trey Compton and Matt Nadler.
But Fellows and his teammates — who also had a walk-off win in nine innings Monday against Prairie Ridge — didn’t get rattled.
“We never gave up, kept on fighting,” he said. “We just stay in the game, stay energized.”
The Hilltoppers tied it in the bottom of the fifth on Nick Dalesandro’s two-out, two-run single to center.
It stayed 2-2 till the bottom of the seventh. With one out, Mitch Boe doubled to left and Keegan Tyrell walked. Dalesandro (2-for-4) then drilled a single up the middle against reliever Willie Sampson, but Tyler Damasky — who had just moved from the mound to center field — threw a strike to catcher Grant Miller to cut down Boe at the plate.
But Fellows wasted no time in ending it, driving the next pitch to left-center to score Tyrell from second.
“Mindset was trying to stay level with the ball, drive something up the middle (or) left side,” Fellows said.
And just like that, the Hilltoppers are one win away from their first unofficial summer state title since 1983.
“It’s been pretty exciting,” Joliet Catholic coach Jared Voss said. “All of this is just giving us good experience (going) into next spring.”
Especially on the mound, where four Joliet Catholic pitchers combined on a five-hitter. Mike Quiram worked a perfect top of the seventh for the win, striking out one. Danny Belling and Alex Ragusa preceded him on the mound with scoreless two-inning stints in relief of starter George Manikas.
It was the second time in the summer playoffs the Hilltoppers pieced together a win with multiple pitchers.
“We did it once last week against Plainfield South and it worked out well for us,” Voss said. “It worked out well for us (Wednesday) also.”
“Those are some of the guys who were doing a good job for us splitting the innings all summer. So they deserve to be out there.”