LOCKPORT – Nobody ever said it had to be pretty.
Joliet Catholic did what it had to do Thursday night in knocking off Sandburg 12-5 in the championship game of the Lockport Regional in the Phil Lawler Classic summer baseball tournament.
As for style points, uh, probably not many. Still, the Hilltoppers (15-0) advance to Monday’s 4 p.m. state tournament game at Benedictine University against the winner of the Prairie Ridge vs. Warren game. This marks JCA's second trip to state in three summers.
Senior right-hander Nick Dalesandro recovered enough from the beating he took behind the plate Monday, when he caught Drake Fellows' 1-0 shutout of Lincoln-Way North, to pitch five innings and get he victory.
He allowed five runs, and all five were unearned. The Hilltoppers committed four errors behind him in the third inning, including two that put the first two batters on base, as Sandburg (14-3) rallied from a 5-0 deficit to pull into a 5-5 tie.
JCA finished with five errors, and until the third inning, the Hilltoppers had allowed one run in 23 regional innings.
"It was a good team victory," Dalesandro said. "We had players make a couple mistakes, but they picked each other up. I went out there and let my defense work, and they had my back.
"[Second baseman] Mike Quiram made a diving stop to save a run, and that was huge."
However, the Eagles had used up their top-line pitching earlier in the regional, and the Hilltoppers took advantage of the freebies they received. Sandburg pitching walked nine batters and hit one, and the Eagles' catcher committed four passed balls and one of his team’s four errors
JCA re-established control in the bottom of the fourth inning, scoring five runs on two hits, four walks and two errors. Connor Brandon, who had doubled in a three-run second inning, blooped a two-run single in fourth.
Mike Quiram was on base four times with two hits and two walks and also pitched the final two innings, allowing no runs on one hit. He struck out the final two hitters to end the game with a flourish.
"We played hard," Quiram said. "I was a little messy there at second base for a bit, but my teammates picked me up.
"I got behind at the plate a couple of times, and all I did was stay back and drive it into right."
Dalesandro was touched for seven hits in his five innings. He struck out seven and walked two. He pulled off the ultimate in the second inning, striking out the side on nine pitches. He also hit the ball well four times and had two long sacrifice flies to support his own cause.
Fellows doubled in a run. Sophomore KC Simonich continued to hit the ball hard and had a hit, sacrifice and walk. Mitch Boe and Keegan Tyrell set the table at the top of the order, each reaching base three times.
"When you play four games in a row, sometimes these games are this way," JCA coach Jared Voss said. "Sandburg is a great traditional program.
"Nick [Dalesandro] did a good job. Unfortunately we left some plays out there on the field. Mike [Quiram] has been working as our closer all season and got an extended two innings tonight. He did a good job."