JOLIET – Jonah Hays has not shied away from the opportunities before him all summer.
Hays, the Geneva's rising senior pitcher, has not allowed a run during the Phil Lawler Classic summer tournament.
He did it again Wednesday.
Entering in relief of starter Will Tucholski with one out in the fourth inning, Hays finessed through a three-run deficit. Hays' stellar pitching allowed the Vikings to rally for a 4-3 win over Glenbard South in the semifinals of the unofficial summer state tournament in Joliet.
“He’s been untouchable,” Geneva coach Brad Wendell said of Hays, who pitched 3 2/3 innings. “He’s super efficient. He’s been throwing a ton of strikes and managing his pitch count. He’s unstoppable.“
The Raiders struck first in the first inning. Richie Villa doubled and scored on an error. Kevin Petrey RBI singles in the second and fourth innings pushed Glenbard South's lead to 3-0.
Hays, however, shut the door.
“I just try to keep everybody and the crowd out of my head,” Hays said. “Just throw strikes; throw my stuff [and] keep my fastball in the zone.”
With the victory, Geneva advances to the Lawler state tournament championship game against Brother Rice at 11 a.m. Thursday at North Central College in Naperville. The two teams were originally supposed to play one another on Tuesday, but the matchup was cancelled due to rain.
The Geneva bats remained relatively quiet Wednesday until the sixth, when Joey Pantano got the Vikings on the board with an RBI triple. Ryan Stempowski doubled in a run before Michael Klazura tied it with an RBI single, ending Raiders' starting pitcher Michael Nathe’s afternoon on a sour note.
“I really did just run out of gas,” Nathe said. “I threw a complete game for my travel team a couple days ago. I’m on short days rest.”
In the sixth, Hays stranded a runner on third with two consecutive strikeouts. It opened the door for the Vikings to break through with the clutch hitting they needed in the seventh.
“We put ourselves in position to get that ball game and it didn’t work out for us today,” Raiders coach Marco Eufrasio said. “We’ve been running really well all summer. I believe that’s our first loss of the entire summer, so it’s unfortunate that it comes in this situation.”
“With this group of guys – a 3A school playing against all these [bigger schools] – we feel really good about where we’re at,” Eufrasio continued. “Now we just have to continue to work hard and move forward to get ready for next spring.”
Blake Stempowski led off the seventh with a single and a passed ball advanced him to second. Aidan Sheehan poked a single, advancing him to third. Pantano hit into a fielder’s choice, scoring Stempowski for the 4-3 Vikings' lead.
“[Pantano] has been clutch all summer,” Hays said. “All of our hitters really have been. You can’t really win without putting runs on the board, and that’s been a really big part of this.”
Hays took care of the rest, vaulting the Vikings into the final, behind the power of his fastball.
“Nobody expected us to get this far this summer,” Nathe said. “We were by far the smallest school out of the whole tournament. We beat a lot of good teams...I think that momentum is just going to push us in the spring season to do that much better than we did last year.”