Josh Katz throws a complete game as Lane edges Brooks for city title
Lane starting pitcher Josh Katz retired Brooks outfielder Kendall Larry on his 114th pitch of the game, securing a 2-1 win in the Chicago Public League title game.
The crowd was on its feet for the last at-bat Monday at Wrigley Field. That’s a familiar sight on a May afternoon on the North Side, but this time a championship was on the line, admission and parking were free and millionaires weren’t on the diamond.
Lane starting pitcher Josh Katz retired Brooks outfielder Kendall Larry on his 114th pitch, securing a 2-1 victory in the Chicago Public League title game.
Katz found out Wednesday that he’d be starting, so he had a few days to wrap his head around it and prepare.
But actually walking onto the field was a breathtaking moment for the junior.
“I saw the bleachers and kind of that smell of walking into Wrigley Field,” Katz said. “It was incredible.”
The final moments were special. Brooks and Lane brought big crowds.
The Eagles scored once in the seventh to cut into Lane’s lead and had runners on first and second with one out.
Katz had thrown more than 100 pitches and appeared to be on the ropes. He walked two in the inning, but Lane coach Sean Freeman stuck with his ace.
“I’m not gonna lie; I thought that might be the end [after walking CJ Mendez],” Katz said. “I had about five pitches left maybe. Not many.”
Katz, who’s 6-0 and entered the game with an ERA of 0.62, got Brooks catcher Marco Luna to fly out to left, then Larry grounded to third for the final out.
“I wanted this more than anyone for Lane and for everyone,” Katz said. “Coming here as a kid and watching the pros pitch on the mound, it just felt incredible to come out and throw strikes and win the CPS championship.”
Katz allowed five hits, walked two and struck out eight. Second baseman Nick Lagges was the offensive hero for Lane (23-11). He scored the eventual winning run in the fourth inning. It was a fortunate accident. He scored from second base on a grounder to second.
“I thought the ball had made it to the outfield, but I was still running, so I kept my head down and just ran home and made him make the play,” Lagges said.
Lagges thought he was being waved around, but Freeman said that wasn’t the case.
“That was a little miscommunication, but it worked out,” Freeman said. “Sometimes that’s baseball. We put the pressure on. [Lagges] was going hard and made them make a bad throw.”
Junior Jack Tzur had two hits and an RBI for Lane, and senior Carter Dow walked twice and scored a run.
Senior Ryan Little started for Brooks (16-12), which beat Simeon in extra innings in the semifinals. Little pitched four innings and allowed two runs and three hits.
Katz didn’t allow a hit to any of the first six batters in the Eagles’ lineup. But the bottom of the order did some damage. Junior Amir Faulkner had two hits and an RBI, and Mendez, a sophomore, had two hits and a walk.
“CPS and the Cubs put on a top-notch event,” Brooks coach Tony Beale said. “This was a great high school baseball game. I know the kids are disappointed, but they have nothing to be ashamed of. I’m so proud of this, and they will remember this day their entire lives.”
Cubs president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer watched a few innings from the stands behind the third-base dugout.
CPS sports director David Rosengard expects to rotate the game between Wrigley Field and Guaranteed Rate Field. The last time the game was at Wrigley was in 2017. The crowd was significantly bigger than the typical one in Joliet for the Illinois High School Association’s state title game.
“The Cubs were wonderful about running it like a Cubs game,” Rosengard said. “We’re trying to do wow moments for kids, and this was a wow moment.”