CHANNAHON – The great equalizer in baseball is an ace pitcher.
Channahon 12-year-old Bronto team found that out in the semifnals of the Bronco North Zone Tournament on Sunday, when they ran into Kankakee’s Tyler Hiller.
Hiller kept the normally potent Channahon offense at bay just long enough to let Kankakee squeak out a 4-3 win. He allowed just five hits and one walk while striking out 12 and retired the first 10 batters he faced.
“We knew we would be facing [Hiller],” Channahon coach Jason Bisbee said. “He’s probably the best pitcher here. I don’t think I have seen him give up a run until today.”
Kankakee, meanwhile, staked Hiller to a 1-0 lead in the first when leadoff batter Owen Jackson walked, stole second and third and scored on a groundout.
Channahon pitcher Jared Butts matched Hiller pitch for pitch after that and did not allow his first hit until the fourth inning. Butts threw five innings, allowing one hit and three walks while striking out five.
Kankakee touched reliever Brandon Keyster for three runs, just one of which was earned, in the sixth to take a 4-1 lead, but it was far from over.
Keyster – who tied the game with an RBI double in the fourth, driving in Tim Barys, who had singled for Channahon’s first hit – led off the seventh with another double.
An out later, a single by Matthew Sitar put runners on first and third, and Sitar then stole second.
With two outs, Jared Bisbee grounded to second but the throw was wild, allowing both Keyster and Sitar to score to make it 4-3. Dallas VanMeter walked, and both runners moved up on a passed ball to put the tying run on third and the winning run on second, but Hiller struck out the final batter to end it.
“When we were down, 4-1, in the sixth, if you would have told me we would have the winning run in scoring position, I would have taken it,” Bisbee said. “These kids are a special group. They never quit.”
Channahon had beaten Berwyn, 18-0, Saturday to go 3-0 in pool play and earn the top seed in the semifinals.