3A State Semifinal: Potters pour it on late to push past Nazareth


By Andy Sroka
Staff Writer

JOLIET, Ill. – Nazareth Academy and Morton had themselves a classic pitcher’s duel for the first four frames of their 3A State semifinal at Route 66 Stadium in Joliet. The two teams patiently waited out the downpour that preceded the first pitch, delaying the start of the game until 12:30 p.m., over two hours past its scheduled 10 a.m. start time.

But the setback didn’t faze Nazareth’s starter Michael Prosecky nor Morton’s Vinni Massaglia.

Both starters rolled through the first four innings, pitching over minimal, scattered danger. Over that span, the Louisville-committed lefty set down the first 11 Potters in order, striking out five along the way. The junior’s sixth punch-out came in the fourth with two outs after he walked his counterpart Massaglia and allowed a single up the middle to Kyle Killion – so that sixth K came in handy.

Meanwhile, Massaglia’s main threat came in the first. After striking out the Roadrunners’ lead-off hitter Dominic Milano, the senior righty hit a batter, walked the next, and then worked a strikeout for the second out of the inning. Nazareth’s designated hitter Ryan Turgeon worked an eight-pitch walk to load the bases but Massaglia produced his third strikeout of the inning to bail him out unscathed.

He was pretty efficient over the next three innings, allowing just a couple harmless singles that allowed him to keep the game knotted scoreless.

In the fifth, Morton began to apply the pressure with a couple of coin flips that went their way. Catcher Isaiah Gudeman chopped a soft grounder to the right of the mound, fielded cleanly by Prosecky, but a miscommunication left first base unoccupied which allowed Gudeman to reach safely to start the inning. Isaac Weber popped up his sacrifice bunt attempt on the first pitch in the next at-bat but it was just out of the reach of the Roadrunners’ diving catcher, Andrew McKenna, giving the Potters a premium scoring chance.

But they still had to get to Prosecky. A whiffed sac bunt attempt wound up working in the favor of Nazareth anyway when a passed ball pushed the baserunners to second and third with no outs anyway. The Roadrunners’ lefty ace dug deep here and struck out the next two batters after lengthy, full-count battles, making it appear as if this game was about to stay deadlocked.

Nick Guerra made sure that wasn’t meant to be, though.

Guerra, Nazareth’s lead-off hitter and one of their most reliable bats in the lineup, had struck out in both of his at-bats against Prosecky. As a lefty in the box, Prosecky was extra tough to square up, but this time around the junior got a good look at a two-strike breaking ball and barreled it over the center fielder’s head to plate the first two runs of the game. He wound up at third on a triple and was promptly singled in by Logan Peterson from a base hit up the middle. That single ended Prosecky’s outing, one in which he was dominant except for his final inning of work – and even then, was just a single strike away from getting out of the jam.

Morton wrapped up that half inning with the 3-0 lead but Nazareth summoned an answer in the bottom half.

Massaglia got two quick outs when Milano roped a triple into the right field corner to keep the inning alive. Zach Carmignani drove him home with a double into the other corner to score Nazareth’s first run. Up stepped McKenna, the Roadrunners’ best slugger, who worked an intense at-bat that featured a long foul ball with home run distance and a comeback walk from an 0-2 count. It felt as if the momentum had swung back in the Roadrunners’ favor when Massaglia coaxed Bob Grimes into a groundout to strand two runners, keeping his team in the lead, 3-1.

The rest of the way, it was all Morton. The Potters scored another run on a wild pitch in the sixth and then added four more in the seventh on four hits, including another Guerra extra-base knock.

Morton opted to relieve Massaglia with its seven-run lead intact and a mostly quiet seventh had the Nazareth see their fantastic season end, 8-1. As for the Potters, they’re now 29-6, and a 30th victory would earn them a 3A title. They’ll be challenging the winner of this afternoon’s St. Ignatius-Triad game in tomorrow’s 3A State championship game, beginning around 11 a.m. right back at Route 66 Stadium.

STATISTICAL HIGHLIGHTS

  • Vinni Massaglia, RHP, (Morton, 2018): 6 IP, 1 ER, 4 H, 3, BB, 10 K

  • Nick Guerra, 1B, (Morton, 2019): 2-for-4, 2B, 3B, 2 R, 2 RBI

  • Kyle Killion, OF, (Morton, 2018): 3-for-4, 2B, RBI

  • Zach Carmignani, SS, (Nazareth Academy, 2019): 2-for-2, 2B, RBI

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