Top-10 Stories of 2022: No. 8 Joliet Catholic Captures 2A State Title


By Drew Locascio
Illinois Scouting Director

The Hilltoppers are among the most historic programs in the state’s baseball scene, and they captured another state title in 2022. Despite sitting a 3-4 after the first seven games of the season, Joliet Catholic ended the regular season at 19-10 and ran the table in the 2A playoffs, finishing 26-10 on the season and No. 13 in the Final Power 25 rankings. The Hilltoppers were hot in the playoffs, outscoring their opponents 39-3 entering the state finals in Peoria.

The ‘Toppers pitching staff carried them through the playoffs. Two lefties – LHP/OF TJ Schlageter (2023; Louisville commit) and LHP Jacob Gimbel (2024) combined for nearly 100 innings pitched this season. Entering the finals Schlageter had thrown 50 innings while the sophomore Gimbel had pitched 46. Schlageter led the team in strikeouts (63), and he only walked nine batters all season. Gimbel allowed 19 earned runs in 46 innings of work, resulting in an ERA of 2.89. At the back end of the bullpen, seniors RHP/OF Dom Coda (2022; Lewis) and RHP/SS Jake Spotofora (2022; College of DuPage JC) were the go-to arms. Coda sported an ERA of 1.47 and and Spotofora had a 1.06 ERA.

Their offense got hot in the playoffs as well, averaging around eight runs a game entering the finals. The offense was led by seniors OF Luka Radicevich (2022; Chipola JC) and OF/1B Jackson Cullen (2022; Loras College). Cullen led the team with 37 hits while Radicevich had the most RBIs with 35. Junior Louisville recruit OF/RHP Trey Swiderski (2023) was a noteworthy bat in the lineup, leading the team with six home runs while knocking in 29, along with 2023 MIF Tommy Kemp who emerged midway through the season. Senior shortstop Aidan Voss (2022) was a mainstay at the top of the lineup and committed to play football at Iowa Western JC.

We were able to send head coach Jared Voss a few questions via email this past week as we reflect on this past spring season as well as JCA's title run in their first season at the 2A level, and here's what the legendary head coach had to say about his team's successful 2022 campaign:

Question: After the first seven games you guys were under .500 at 3-4 on the season.  Did you see a state title run coming? Was there a turning point in the regular season or postseason that you can point to?

Answer: The expectation of playing for a State Title in June is a goal these players set their mind to before every season here at JCA.  We were not very concerned over the slow start.  We were losing to some very good programs and weather wise it was one of the worst Springs I can remember so it was tough to be consistent early on.

Q: How much did the seniors mean to the club? Were there any in particular that were the glue to the team, catalyst, etc?

A: The Seniors were outstanding last year! They really set the tone for our team from day 1.  Jackson Cullen, Michael Ascencio, Dom Coda, Ryan Louthan, Danny O’Brien, Brennan Luz, Jake Spotofora provided tremendous leadership.  I am going to play favorites though and say coaching my nephew Aidan Voss made last Spring very special to me. He is just about everything I look for in a player when they put on the Hilltopper uniform.

Q: Did any young players step up throughout the season and take on a big role for you guys?

A: Junior second baseman Tommy Kemp really stepped up for us.  He was not a starter early on in the season but eventually ended up playing a huge role for us.  He fits perfectly into that Nick Madrigal mold.  Slightly undersized but smart and gritty batting close to .500 for us most of the Spring.

Q: Were there any outside influences that helped this year's club? New additions, coaches, themes

A: After the way our ’21 season ended we were highly anticipating and excited to get the show on the road in ’22.  We were nowhere to be found in any pre season write ups as well.  So I think a couple of these things led to a little bit of a chip on our shoulder before we even played a game last year and it just snowballed throughout the season.

Q: Were there any similarities or differences from state title teams you have coached in the past?

A: I know one thing about this years team compared to some of our State teams in the past is that we had a good amount of multi sport athletes on our roster and in the lineup every day.  We do not promote specialization at JCA.  To me it is refreshing to see our DB in football as our centerfielder, the fullback our catcher, the QB our shortstop, the starting forward in basketball our third baseman, etc.  Competitors want to compete and its tough to do that when you are only training for one sport year round.

Q: You guys always play one of the tougher schedules throughout the regular season. What is the thought process behind that and how does it help you come playoff time?

A: I personally think sometimes you can read too much into the schedule to be honest.  Basically my thought process is that if I’m going to be standing out in the cold for 2 hours coaching a baseball game let’s at least try to make it against someone that’s as competitive as us.

Read the State Title game story below:


JOLIET CATHOLIC CAPS 26-WIN SEASON WITH 2A STATE TITLE


By: Diego Solares
Area Scout, Illinois & Missouri

2A STATE CHAMPIONSHIP

Saturday’s finale pitted Joliet Catholic and Richmond-Burton against each other for a shot at the 2A state championship trophy. It was the Hilltoppers who came out on top, winning their 26th game of the spring 12-3 to capture high school baseball’s most coveted honor. 

Richmond-Burton jumped out to an early lead in the first inning on a two-run opposite field single from OF Ethan Schoeps (2023). Joliet Catholic manufactured a run in their half of the first inning, however, when 1B Jackson Cullen (2022; Loras) tripled and later came around to score on a sacrifice fly by OF Luka Radicevich (2022; Chipola JC). 

The Rockets matched Joliet Catholic in the top of the second, as C Hayden Christiansen (2022; Xavier) poked a slider the other way for an RBI. Things held at bay until the bottom half of the third, when Radicevich brought his second run home of the game on a sacrifice fly to right field. 

Joliet Catholic blew things open in the two innings that followed. They put up five runs in the fourth, doing all of that damage with two outs. OF Daniel O’Brien (2022) and INF Aidan Voss (2022; Iowa Western CC football) each drove in runs on RBI singles, and they both scored on a three-run blast to left field by Cullen

They kept their red-hot offense rolling in the fifth. 1B Michael Ascencio (2022; Kaskaskia JC) and C Ryan Louthan (2022; John A. Logan JC) reached base to start the inning, both coming across to score on a barreled up triple into the left-center gap by 3B Brennan Luz (2022; Concordia-Wisconsin). 2B Tommy Kemp (2023) plated Luz with an RBI double down the left field line, and he came around to score on a single by O’Brien moments afterwards. 

Richmond-Burton threatened in the top half of the sixth inning, but RHP Jake Spotofora (2022; College of Dupage) extinguished the Rockets’ rally. Spotofora entered the game with the bases-loaded and one out, retiring the first batter he faced via strikeout and inducing an inning-ending flyout to foul territory. 

Joliet Catholic scored a run in the sixth on an RBI double by Asencio, capping off a 12-run outburst by the Hilltoppers’ offense. They pounded out 13 hits in total, defeating Richmond-Burton 12-3 for the 2A state title. This is Joliet Catholic's fourth state championship, and the fourth in program history.

NOTABLE PERFORMERS:

+ Daniel O’Brien (Joliet Catholic): 2-for-3, 2 RBI 2 RS
+ Aidan Voss (Joliet Catholic): 2-for-4, RBI, RS
+ Jackson Cullen (Joliet Catholic): 2-for-3, 3B, HR, 3 RBI, 2 RS
+ Luka Radicevich (Joliet Catholic): 2-for-3, 2B, 2 RBI
+ Michael Ascencio (Joliet Catholic): 2-for-4, 2B, RBI, RS
+ Brennan Luz (Joliet Catholic): 2-for-3, 3B, 2 RBI, 2 RS
+ Tommy Kemp (Joliet Catholic): 2-for-3, 2B, RBI, 2 RS
+ Dominic Coda (Joliet Catholic): 2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 3 K
+ Hayden Christiansen (Richmond-Burton): 2-for-4, RBI, RS
+ Ethan Schoeps (Richmond-Burton): 1-for-2, 2B, RBI

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