JOLIET – In last Thursday’s 4-2, eight-inning victory over Joliet West at Joliet Route 66 Stadium, Joliet Central senior right-hander Carlos Garcia escaped a bases-loaded, nobody-out situation in the bottom of the seventh inning without allowing a run. That forced extra innings.
Then after a lightning delay in the sixth inning Monday, with the Steelmen leading the Tigers, 3-1, Garcia was on in relief and facing the same predicament. This time, he allowed a sacrifice fly to losing pitcher Dylan Suca but escaped further trouble on a strikeout and foulout as Central held on to complete the sweep, 3-2.
“He’s our man,” Steelmen starting pitcher Jared King said of Garcia. “In a close-game situation, he is the best reliever out of our pen.
“This was probably my best outing of the year, but it was nice having [Garcia] to come in.”
King, who was staked to a 3-0 first-inning lead thanks largely to Johnny Slattery’s long two-run double, threw five shutout innings, allowing two hits, two walks and hitting two batters to that point. But West’s Joe Keigher, after being down 0-2 in the count, worked a walk leading off the sixth, and Mark Garcia knocked him in with a double that one-hopped the left-field fence to make it 3-1.
Garcia relieved for Central (12-17, 2-14), and with the rain getting harder, he walked Ben Rogina and Ty Batusich to load the bases. Then lightning was sighted, forcing a 30-minute delay. But Garcia was a different pitcher when he returned and the rain had stopped.
“Jared [King] has come a long way on the mound,” Central coach Kevin Fitzgerald said. “He put in a lot of work. He can get himself in trouble, but he grinds it out.
“And with Carlos [Garcia] being able to do what he does, it’s nice. As a starter, it’s nice to know you have a dominant guy behind you.”
Suca also was outstanding on the mound for West (7-21, 3-13). An error, single by Nate Magolan and another error loaded the bases with nobody out in the Central first. Slattery launched his two-run double to deep center field on an 0-2 pitch, and Connor Lawson’s groundball knocked in a run to make it 3-0.
“It was a relief to get that hit, being down in the count like I was,” Slattery said of his double.
“Dylan [Suca] pitched a great game for them,” Fitzgerald said. “That’s the way we have been, though – either get three in the first and then wait for the game to get over, or we don’t score until the seventh. We have to do something about those middle innings.”
Suca went the distance and threw 70 pitches. He allowed four hits, no walks and no earned runs. He retired the Steelmen 1-2-3 in four of the six innings they batted and knocked down the last 10 batters he faced using a mere 25 pitches.
“Dylan pitched his heart out, but two errors that weren’t tough plays and an 0-2 double, that was the game,” West coach John Karczewski said.
“Bases loaded, nobody out [as West had in the sixth], you have to score more than one run out of that. We just aren’t executing things like getting a bunt down and cutting down on strikeouts and putting the ball in play.”
Meanwhile, the Steelmen will take a victory over their crosstown rival any time they can get it. King noted Central won two of three from West last season, but anything less than all three was unacceptable.
“Especially after what happened last year, it’s nice to sweep them,” he said.
“I have a lot of pride in West, playing there and coaching there with Karch,” Fitzgerald said. “I’m hoping they also do well in the postseason.”