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La Salle-Peru relief pitcher Kyle Jenkins (back left) grabs catcher Max Strickland to celebrate while first baseman Kyle Rothrock (right) watches after L-P beat Ottawa 3-2 during Thursday’s Class 3A Ottawa Sectional semifinal. NewsTribune photo/Genna Ord
OTTAWA — At the end of practice Wednesday, La Salle-Peru baseball coach Matt Glupczynski asked his players if there was anything else they should practice.
Senior Kyle Jenkins suggested first and third offensive plays.
It proved to be a very helpful suggestion.
The No. 3-seeded Cavaliers executed a first and third play in the top of the ninth inning Thursday to lift them to a 3-2 upset of No. 2-seeded Ottawa in a Class 3A Ottawa Regional semifinal.
“I thought we played great,” Glupczynski said. “We knew coming in it was going to be a tough game. We had tough games with them all year. Tonight, we didn’t expect anything different. We knew it was going to be a hard-fought game. They’re our biggest rival. Put that in with playoff implications, you know it was going to be a good one.”
The Cavs (22-6) advance to the title game at 10 a.m. Saturday against No. 1 Morris (24-4), which reached the final with a 3-2 victory over Coal City on Wednesday.
“Morris is a great program,” Glupczynski said. “They’re going to come ready to play. I watched them a little bit against Coal City. They have a great defense, they have great pitching and they have kids who can hit the ball. They play the game the right way. It’s going to be a dogfight.”
With runners on first and third bases with two outs in the top of the ninth inning Thursday, L-P courtesy runner Elliott Lewis took off for second base.
Ottawa pitcher Jonah Morris stepped off the mound and threw high to second baseman Brazon Wheeler, who leapt to catch it.
As soon as Morris threw the ball, pinch runner Tyler Brovelli broke for home.
Wheeler initially went to tag Lewis, but then turned to throw home. The throw was wide and Brovelli slid in for the go-ahead run.
“Elliott Lewis was on first and he did a great job of taking off early,” Glupczynski said. “What I think really helped the play out was Jonah Morris’ throw was high to the second baseman. If it would have been right on target, I think they would have been able to tag Lewis because he slipped.
“With the throw high, (Brovelli) just took off. He didn’t really get checked back to the bag as hard as he probably could have been. He got a great jump and by the time Wheeler hit the ground and threw off balance, he was getting ready to slide, so it came out in our favor.”
Jenkins, who hit a lead off double in the ninth to set up the first and third play, then closed the door.
He allowed a two-out single before inducing a pop up that second baseman Noah Lamboley caught in shallow center field.
“He hit it and instantly off the bat I thought it was going to Bret (Storm in center field),” Jenkins said. “Coach had him in no doubles (playing deep). I looked and saw Bret sprinting. I got real nervous. Then I saw Noah calling people off and I have a lot of faith in Noah in the field, so I knew he was going to get it.”
The catch gave the Cavs the victory in a game they never trailed.
L-P took an early 2-0 lead when Kyle Rothrock hit a two-run single to centerfield in the second inning.
Ottawa tied the game in the fourth when Tabor Griglione ripped a two-run single down the right-field line.
Each starter kept the opposing lineup in check the rest of the way.
In his fourth start of the season, Lamboley allowed two runs — one earned — on five hits with five strikeouts and two walks in seven innings.
Kyle Wallbaum pitched into the eighth for the Pirates (23-4), giving up two runs — one earned — on four hits with two strikeouts and two walks.
Jenkins earned the victory for L-P. He allowed one hit and struck out two in two scoreless innings.
Morris took the loss for Ottawa, which missed several chances to score.
The Pirates stranded a runner on third base in the fourth inning and on second base in the sixth.
In the seventh, Ottawa lead-off hitter Seth Coffey drew a walk. Wheeler put down a bunt but the ball bounced off the bat a second time, making Wheeler out and sending Coffey back to first. Ottawa ended up stranding a runner on second.
“We had our opportunities there in the seventh and had another opportunity earlier in the game and couldn’t capitalize,” Ottawa coach Don Heaberlin said. “They did everything they had to do to win the game, and unfortunately, we didn’t and we came out on the short end.”
Note: Ottawa centerfielder Michael Hermosillo didn’t play due to a hamstring injury.
Kevin Chlum can be reached at 220-6939, or at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @NT_SportsEditor.
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