Class 4A baseball: Lincoln-Way West outlasts Providence to advance to sectional final

The Warriors scored in all but one inning during a 12-10 win over the Celtics

LOCKPORT — Every time Lincoln-Way West first baseman Jacob Morris came to bat Thursday in a semifinal of the Class 4A Lockport Sectional, there were runners in scoring position.

In each of Morris’ first three at-bats, he drove one of them in. He began with an RBI double in the first, had an RBI single in the second and a sacrifice fly in the fourth before grounding out in the fifth. He finished 2 for 3 with three RBIs and was one of many offensive stars in the Warriors’ 12-10 win over Providence Catholic.

“We knew we had to keep scoring,” Morris said. “I was just able to hit the ball hard, and good things happened. Everyone on this team loves the game, and there’s a constant energy. No one wants to be the guy who makes the last out of an inning.”

The Warriors (24-6-1) were behind when they came to the plate in the first inning, thanks to a leadoff home run by Providence’s Tyler Young, who finished 3 for 4 with three RBIs.

Lincoln-Way West, however, was up for the challenge.

Cam Buckley led off the bottom of the first with a bunt single and went to second on an errant throw. Cole Crafton walked, and a single by Kaleb Wilkey loaded the bases. Brandon Pritchard followed with a sacrifice fly to right, scoring Buckley, but Crafton was out trying to go to third. Morris followed with a double to score Wilkey (2 for 3, RBI, 4 runs) to make it 2-1.

Providence (21-16) answered with three in the top of the second, getting an RBI walk from Young and a two-run single from Jackson Smith, to take a 4-2 lead.

West countered with five runs in the bottom of the second, getting RBI singles from Luke Swallow, Wilkey and Morris. The fifth run of the inning came when Wilkey was caught in a rundown while stealing second and Wilkey slid home safely before Wilkey was tagged out.

After Providence was held scoreless in the top of the third, West – which plays Lockport at 10 a.m. Saturday for the sectional title – tacked on two more runs in the bottom half. Harrison Scroggins (2 for 4) scored on a wild pitch, and Aidan Healy (3 for 3, 2 doubles) scored on an RBI grounder by Swallow to take a 9-4 lead.

Each team scored once in the fourth before Providence tried to bring its postseason magic to bear.

With two outs in the top of the fifth, freshman Nate O’Donnell launched a three-run homer to bring the Celtics to within 10-8. West, however, scored twice in the bottom of the fifth on a two-run double by Pritchard to make it 12-8. Providence got a two-run homer by Gavin Gomez in the top of the sixth to close the gap to 12-10 and then held West scoreless for the first time in the bottom of the sixth.

O’Donnell led off the top of the seventh with a single, but Tyler Koscinski, the third Warriors pitcher of the day, retired the next three hitters, striking out two.

“This was a fun game,” Lincoln-Way West coach Jake Zajc said. “I couldn’t be more proud of our kids. They kept fighting and kept battling. We scored every inning but the last one. I am ecstatic for our players and coaches.

“We know you can’t count Providence out ever, especially in the postseason. But we were able to answer when they scored. We executed well, and we got a lot of production from a lot of different guys.”

For Providence, it was the end to a tumultuous year.

“I couldn’t be more proud of our guys,” Celtic coach Mark Smith said. “They kept battling, and they never gave up. Tip your cap to Lincoln-Way West. They swung the [heck] out of the bats and answered every time we scored. We were just chasing all day. We were chasing five, got three, then they got two back.

“This team has been through a lot in the last nine months. From the loss of a teammate to a lot of injuries, they persevered and won a regional title in 4A. That says a lot about our kids. Things just didn’t go our way today.”