MORRIS — No matter what the sport, a game between Morris and Joliet Catholic Academy tends to be a hard-fought battle.
For four innings Saturday, the Class 3A Morris Regional baseball championship game pitting the two schools against each other was looking like another classic in the long-time rivalry.
But, a relentless offense by JCA proved to be the difference, and the Hilltoppers scored 10 runs in the final two innings to claim a 12-2, six-inning victory.
"The final score doesn't tell the story of the game," Morris coach Todd Kein said. "We were right there with them in the first four innings."
The Redskins - who, according to seeding - were the visitors on their home field, got a pair of baserunners on against JCA's Notre Dame recruit Aidan Tyrell in the top of the first as both Jacob Overbeck and Danny Borgstrom walked. Tyrell got out of the inning by inducing a popup to second and a strikeout.
In the bottom of the first, Morris' Dawson Moore retired the first two batters and struck out Simon Grashoff. The third strike got away, however, and Grashoff reached first. Courtesy runner Chris Kosinski came around to score when Greg Ziegler doubled off the top of the center field fence.
With two outs in the top of the second, Morris' Michael Metesh tied the game with a solo home run to center.
In the bottom of the inning, however, JCA took advantage of another Morris mistake to take a 2-1 lead. With one out, Justin Conant singled. A pickoff attempt got away, and Conant raced all the way to third, and scored on a sacrifice fly to center by Christian Knapcyk.
"I would like to have those first two innings back," Kein said. "We gave them a couple of runs, and you can't do that against a good team like JCA. Maybe the game plays out a little differently if we don't give them those early runs.
"Michael Metesh's home run really gave us a spark and got us right back in it."
Neither team scored again until the bottom of the fifth. Knapczyk led off with a single and was sacrificed to second by Tyrell. A single by Matt Bebar drove in Knapczyk, and Grashoff reached on an error, bringing up Ziegler. Ziegler launched a long home run to left, putting the Hilltoppers ahead, 6-1.
Morris answered with a run in the top of the sixth. Patrick McCabe led off with a single, and Overbeck reached on an error, sending courtesy runner Blake Breyman to third. An out later, Alex Cameron grounded to second, scoring Breyman.
JCA kept scoring in the bottom half of the inning. Max Cullen led off with a single and Conant reached on an error on a sacrifice bunt. A single by Knapczyk brought home Cullen. Tyrell grounded into a fielder's choice, with Knapczyk out at second, before a single by Bebar plated Conant. A walk to Grashoff loaded the bases for Ziegler, who hit a grand slam to center to end the game and give him a total of eight RBIs.
"Give JCA credit," Kein said. "Once the dam broke, they kept coming, which is what quality teams do.
"I can't say enough about our senior class. They gelled as a group. They went through a lot of adversity and came out the other end better than they were before."