Baseball: Juan Rico, Joliet West roll past Joliet Central

Tigers claim 10th straight win by toppling Steelmen

Joliet West’s Juan Rico delivers a pitch against Joliet Central on Monday, April 15, 2024.

JOLIET – Joliet West pitcher Juan Rico referred to Monday’s game against Joliet Central as a good opportunity to work on his mechanics.

Apparently, they only required minor tweaking.

Rico issued a lead-off walk to John Stasiak to start the game, but promptly retired 10 batters in a row to fuel his team to an 13-1, five-inning victory.

Rico wouldn’t lose his no-hit bid until the fourth inning when Jay Zepeda collected a clean single. It scored Andrew Mixon – with what was an unearned run – and also was the only hit Rico would allow in the game.

“I took more of today like a mechanics day with the big lead, thanks to the offense,” Rico said. “I was just really trying to spot and be ready for my start next week.”

Joliet West’s Jimmy Anderson drives in a run against Joliet Central on Monday, April 15, 2024.

Rico didn’t have to worry about run support backing his effort. Joliet West sent 12 batters to the plate in its half of the first inning, scoring seven and tacking on four more in the second inning to help improve the team to 15-3 on the season and extend its recent winning streak to 10 games.

“That’s Juan’s sixth win of the year, and he’s kind of a rock star out there,” Joliet West coach John Karczewski said. “He’s pumping it in there, and when they hit it, we usually field it.”

Joliet Central (5-10-1) did put the ball in play fairly often against Rico, but the Tigers defense made almost every routine play and some with a larger degree of difficulty.

The only blemish on the effort was a tough error on Jimmy Anderson when he went deep into the hole to track down a groundball before unleashing an errant throw on Andrew Mixon’s at-bat. He’d move to second on Joliet Central’s lone hit of the game by Zepeda and scored the Steelemen’s lone run of the game after successfully stealing third and crossing home plate on a Joliet West throwing error.

Joliet Central’s Jay Zepeda looks to field the throw at second against Joliet West on Monday, April 15, 2024.

Those errors aside, Joliet West’s effort was strong all the way around. And that’s what Karczewski has come to expect from his senior-dominated team.

“These guys are good,” Karczewski said. “They’ve been starting on varsity since they were sophomores and they really are senior-led. You know what you are going to get out of them, and it has been fun.”

Joliet West had nine hits in the game with Owen Young and Jose Leal recording two each. More importantly, the Tigers kept the line moving by advancing in whatever way they could, getting strong production from the bottom of the lineup.

Parker Schwarting, Christian Chignoli, Ryan Sobun and Tyler Moore each scored two runs, with the quartet all hitting in the last five spots in Joliet West’s lineup.

“We’re playing really good,” Karczewski said. “Top to bottom, we’re swinging it. Hopefully the bats will continue to stay hot.”

Karczewski was unaware of his team’s winning streak reaching 10 games.

“I don’t even know. I’m not even worried about it,” Karczewski said. “We’re rolling, and that’s all that matters.”

Steve Soucie

Steve Soucie

Steve Soucie is the Managing Editor of Friday Night Drive for Shaw Media. Also previously for Shaw Media, Soucie was the Sports Editor at the Joliet Herald News. Prior to that, Soucie worked at the Kankakee Daily Journal and for Pro Football Weekly.