3A baseball: Joliet Catholic relies on contact to win high-profile pitchers’ duel with Pontiac

Hilltoppers advance past Henry Brummel, regional host Indians

Keegan Farnaus

PONTIAC – With only two balls hit out of the infield – a routine flyout and what should have been a routine flyout – during its four innings facing Pontiac ace Henry Brummel, it’s fair to say Joliet Catholic did not hit the Indiana University commit very hard.

The Hilltoppers, however, did hit him.

Consistently enough up and down the order, in fact, to put up three runs (one earned) on the potential MLB draft pick. JCA added seven more runs after Brummel left the game after reaching his pitch-count limit in a 10-0, six-inning victory in the semifinals of the Class 3A Pontiac Regional.

“We knew about their pitcher and how good he was,” JCA coach Jared Voss said. “We just needed to make sure that we competed at the plate and put balls in play and do our best to put as much pressure on him as we could.”

Joliet Catholic – which sent left-hander Jake Gimbel to successfully duel with Brummel on Wednesday – will return to the county seat of Livingston County for Saturday’s 11 a.m. regional championship game against Kankakee, a 3-0 winner over Streator in Wednesday’s other semifinal.

Joliet Catholic No. 7 hitter Keegan Farnaus drove in the day’s first run, stepping in with the bases loaded and hitting a sharp grounder up the middle. Pontiac second baseman Henry DeYoung, drawn in to potentially get a forceout at the plate, made a nice diving stop, but having no play at home and not realizing he might have had time for a force at second instead fired wildly to first, allowing Zach Pomatto to score on the hit and Zach Beitler to scamper home on the throwing error.

“We were a little excited [to face Brummel], ready to jump on that first pitch,” Farnaus said. “We knew we were going to get his fastball, so once we found that, we knew we had to sit on that and go to work.

“The first pitch I saw in the strike zone [in the second inning], just go at it, put it in play, make something happen.”

JCA added another run without getting the ball out of the infield in the third – Matt Simmons reaching on an error, getting to third on Lucas Simulick’s would-be sacrifice bunt that was thrown into center field and scoring on a Beitler groundout.

Having reached his predetermined pitch limit, Brummel (4 IP, 3 R, 1 ER, 3 H, 1 BB, 3 K) was lifted in favor of reliever Ryson Eilts (2/3 IP, 6 R, 0 ER, 4 H, 2 BB, 1 K), who was effective at first but eventually allowed six unearned runs in the fifth, the big hit being Farnaus’ three-run triple to right-center field.

“They didn’t hit Henry around too much. We knew he was going to come in and do his thing,” Pontiac coach Adam Lawrence said, “but we had him on kind of a pitch count this year. He’s looking at bigger and better things in his future, so he was on a pitch count again tonight. We pulled him at 60 and thought we could keep [Joliet Catholic] off balance a little bit with our next guy coming in, but they finally hit some barrels on our next guy.

“They’re a good team. They’re the second-ranked team in the state for a reason.”

The Hilltoppers invoked the 10-run rule in the sixth. Simmons drew a walk, then scored on a Simulick double and Pontiac’s sixth error of the ballgame.

It was no one-sided pitchers’ duel either, as Gimbel (5 IP, 0 R, 3 H, 3 BB, 9 K) was spectacular, pitching out of jams in the top of the first and the fourth and adding two pickoffs at first base to his nine strikeouts at the plate. John Baltz (1 IP, 0 R, 0 H, 0 BB, 2 K) pitched a scoreless sixth with the game well in hand.

“Jake’s been consistent for us for the last four years,” Voss said. “We respected their team and their pitcher and knew we had to put our best out there also.”

Tommy Oestman finished with two of Pontiac’s three hits. Simmons scored three runs, and Farnaus provided two hits and four RBI for the Hilltoppers. Beitler added two RBIs, with Graham Roesel and O’Brien adding one apiece for the victors.

Joliet Catholic's Jake Gimbel