Prep Baseball Report

Lemont Stuns No. 3 JCA To Win Regional Title

By Sean Duncan
Executive Director

LEMONT, IL – Heading into the Lemont Regional, which is unquestionably the toughest Class 3A regional in the state, host Lemont wasn’t given much of chance, despite the fact the Indians are the defending 3A state champions. Hard to argue against the sentiment, given Lemont had to beat No. 9 Lincoln-Way West and No. 3 Joliet Catholic just to advance.

After knocking off Lincoln-Way West last week, Lemont shocked a packed crowd Monday when it upended Joliet Catholic 2-1 in nine innings to keep the Indians’ title defense alive. The winner of this regional has won the last three 3A state championships – Lemont, Joliet Catholic and Marian Catholic, respectively. The Indians (20-13) now advance to play the winner of Oak Forest-Illinana Christian game.

Garrett ActonThe game featured a pair of stellar pitching performances by junior right-handers; but in the end, Lemont’s Garrett Acton (pictured right) got a little more support to edge Joliet Catholic’s Drake Fellows, a Vanderbilt recruit who’s one of the top 2016 prospects in the country. Both pitchers went all nine innings, each only walking one batter.

Acton, a 6-foot-1, 200-pound St. Louis University recruit, allowed seven hits, struck out five, walked one and hit one batter to earn the victory. He consistently threw his 84-86 mph fastball for strikes, topping at 89 once. Coming off a nagging groin injury, it was his first start in nearly three weeks, only pitching in short relief twice last week. When Acton wanted a little bit more, he reached back and added a tick to his fastball, like his 87-mph heater he struck Iowa-bound Mitch Boe out to end the game with the tying run on first base.

“My mindset going in was to make the best pitches I could,” said Acton, who also went 2-for-4 at the plate. “The adrenaline was going today.”

The way Fellows was throwing, however, it looked as though Acton’s effort would just be an impressive footnote to the game story. The 6-foot-5 Fellows was as dominant as a pitcher could be, pounding the strike zone with his 90-91 mph fastball for all nine innings, and mixing in an 81-84 mph slider. Fellows finished with 13 strikeouts, five hits (three in the second inning), one walk and one earned run.

In the ninth, Fellows showed his first indication that he may be tiring, as he served up his only walk of the game to Austin Tittle with one out. But then he came back to strike out the next hitter with a 90-mph fastball. With two outs, Acton laced a single to put runners on first and second, bringing up Mike Gralla. The senior right fielder poked a 91-mph fastball that glanced off a diving second baseman’s glove through the right side, and Tittle narrowly beat the throw to the plate to give Lemont the winning margin in the top half of the ninth. It was Gralla’s second hit of the game.

“We just tried to keep it simple – a seeing-eye single is all you can ask for against a pitcher like Drake,” said Lemont coach Brian Storako. “We just tried to keep it simple and put the ball in play.”

Lemont appeared to get to Fellows early when the Indians led off the second inning with three consecutive singles, starting with a Nick Wisz line drive up the middle, followed by an opposite-field line drive by Acton, and an infield hit by Gralla to load the bases. Fellows proceeded to strike out the next batter, and then got a one-hopper back to the mound, which looked to be an easy 1-2-3 double play, but the catcher air-mailed the throw to allow a run to score. Fellows recorded a strikeout to escape further damage.

The Hilltoppers (28-7-1) responded in the bottom of the second to tie the game 1-1. Purdue-bound Nick Dalesandro led off the inning with a single, and advanced to third on Jack Howard’s single. Dalesandro scored on what appeared to be a safety squeeze after Acton looked him back to third and threw to first base for the out. Dalesandro slid around the tag to make it 1-1.

Both Fellows and Acton proceeded to go into shut-down mode after that until the ninth.

“I can’t say this was expected,” said Storako. “But this was the type of team we thought we had coming into the year.”  

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