Luke Morgan, Lincoln-Way West get best of Joliet Catholic

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Playing the defending Class 3A state champion in a playoff game on their home field might have caused a sleepless night or two for some pitchers.

Not Luke Morgan.

The Lincoln-Way West ace couldn’t wait to face Joliet Catholic on Thursday in a regional semifinal.

“I live for games like this,” Morgan said.

And largely because of Morgan’s effort on the mound, the Warriors lived to play another day.

Morgan fired six innings of no-hit ball to lead Lincoln-Way West to a 3-1 win over the Hilltoppers at the Joliet Catholic Regional.

The Warriors (30-5) will play at 10 a.m. Saturday against Lemont (29-5) in the JCA Regional championship. JCA finishes 28-8.

“I was pumped all week for this game,” said Morgan, who walked five and struck out four. “Me and the coaches went over what their hitters like to do. It’s a big win.”

When Morgan walked John Kalisik to lead off the seventh, West coach Jake Zajc summoned left-hander Ben Francis from the bullpen. Kalisik eventually scored on a wild pitch and Rylan Bannon broke up the no-hitter with a two-out single.

Francis, however, struck out two hitters and retired Nick Dalesandro for the final out of the game.

“Luke wanted to stay in but he was around 100 pitches and Ben came in and closed it out,” Zajc said.

West couldn’t ask for a better start to the game. Zach Speaker led off the Warrior first with a double off Dalesandro and Dan Brokop came through with a clutch, two-out RBI single to right field for a 1-0 lead.

“I wanted to hit the ball the opposite way,” Brokop said. “I was just trying to get the job done.”

The Warriors extended their lead to 2-0 in the second. Jake Robbins led off the inning with a triple down the right-field line and scored on a double by Jake Mahy. Mahy also contributed defensively, throwing out Bannon trying to steal second base in the first inning.

“Mahy came up with a big hit and had a nice performance behind the plate,” Zajc said.

Morgan was cruising until the fifth, when he walked the bases loaded.

However, he was able to get pinch-hitter Nick Morrison to roll into a 6-4-3 inning-ending double play.

In the sixth, Morgan hit two batters and walked another to load the bases. Once again, the South Alabama recruit escaped unscathed, getting Danny Weis to ground out sharply to first base.

The Warriors added an insurance run in their half of the sixth when Brokop singled and eventually scored on a sacrifice fly by Robbins for a 3-0 spread.

“We got guys on base, but we couldn’t get a hit,” JCA coach Jared Voss said. “You’ve got to give credit to Luke. He pitched a great game.”

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