JOLIET — Prairie Ridge and Lyons put on an old-fashioned pitchers' duel in Wednesday’s Phil Lawler Summer Classic semifinal showdown at Joliet Route 66 Stadium.
Lions starter Michael Walsh and his Wolves counterpart, Ryan Goudschaal, each turned in a dazzling outing, but a clutch, fifth-inning bases-loaded single off the bat of Ben Harris made all the difference. Harris' heroics earned Goudschaal and the Wolves a 1-0 victory and a trip to North Central College in Naperville for Thursday's championship game.
Prairie Ridge faces Plainfield South at noon for the title.
Goudschaal held the Lions hitless through 4 1/3 innings en route to the win and finished with six scoreless innings of one-hit ball. He struck out six and walked two along the way.
“I was just hitting my spots with a couple different pitches, and it was working out well,” Goudschaal said. “My team picked me up, and we scored that one run, and it wound up being all we needed. I’m just so happy we get a chance to play [for the championship].”
Prairie Ridge struggled to put together any meaningful offense against Walsh. The Lions’ senior fireballer surrendered only two walks and a pair of singles while striking out three over four shutout innings. He also pitched around three errors that easily could have come back to haunt his defense.
After Walsh’s exit, however, the Wolves didn’t waste much time. Reliever Connor Cassady pitched well in two innings of work, but another defensive miscue proved costly for the Lions. With one out in the fifth, Prairie Ridge’s Brennan Kelly reached first base on a botched chopper to the third baseman, advanced to third after Keegan Garis drew a walk and Dominic Listi was hit by a pitch, then scampered home for the game’s only run on Harris’ decisive base hit.
“We’ve been swinging the bats well, but we struggled today because [Walsh] was real good today,” Prairie Ridge coach Glen Pecoraro said. “He was consistently hitting 87-88 (mph) and throwing a real tight late-breaking ball. We probably haven’t seen that caliber of pitching in a few weeks, but in a 0-0 game I told my guys ‘Hey, one run is going to win this game.’
“We were fortunate enough to get one when Ben Harris hit a ball on the screws, and thank God we came through.”
Harris also was credited with a save after working around a leadoff walk, thanks to an excellent strike-em-out, throw-em-out double play to slam the door on the Lions.
Given the way Prairie Ridge’s season ended in the spring – Antioch piled up five late runs in a come-from-behind win that ended the Wolves’ season in a Class 3A sectional championship game – it was all the more satisfying to hold strong and squelch Lyons’ comeback hopes.
“I think we have taken the next step we needed for next spring in this tournament,” Pecoraro said. “We lost in the sectional championship in the spring after leading in the late innings. I’ve kind of used that to fuel our fire all summer.
“If we can have a good summer, that motivates us going into the offseason and then into next spring. All of it is just part of the process. We’re happy to be competing in the championship game. Plainfield South is a [heck] of a team, and I expect it to be a great game.
“Shoot, it could go either way. I have no idea.”