JOLIET - Minooka was in prime position.
Down by one in the top of the seventh, but with runners on first and second.
Nobody out. The heavy wind gusting out. All day long the Indians had been able to fight back from behind against Joliet Catholic.
This time however, Minooka didn't quite have enough, as Hilltoppers pitcher Matt Testa struck out the side after allowing the first two hitters to reach, giving Joliet Catholic an 8-7 non-conference win.
Minooka (8-6) right fielder Carson Neushwander led off the top of the seventh with a walk, and Steve Wittkamp followed with a double.
After that, Testa did exactly what he needed to — getting Joe Carnagio, TJ Condon and Austin Polcyn on strikeouts, leaving the tying and go-ahead run stranded in the process.
Testa threw just the one inning, earning a save.
"We preach to our kids to work the opposite field. Everybody's trying to do too much up there," Minooka coach Jeff Petrovic said. "Everybody's trying to hit the ball to the fence when all we have to do is put the ball in play and make something happen, and nobody could do that."
Considering how the Indians had their way with the Joliet Catholic (8-3) pitching all afternoon, leaving the two runners out on the basepaths came as a bit of a surprise.
After the Hilltoppers got on the scoreboard with three runs in the bottom of the second off Minooka starter Trevor Machek, the Indians got three of their own in the third thanks to RBIs from Tyler Thorson, Nick Fleischauer and Neushwander.
After Joliet Catholic took the lead with a run in the bottom of the inning, the Indians were right back on top with two runs in the fourth, when Carnagio scored on an error and Max Brozovich drove in Condon on a sacrifice fly.
The Hilltoppers' four-run fifth inning would be too much to overcome, despite the fact the Indians had two runs in the bottom of the sixth and of course, the first two hitters reaching in the seventh.
"Obviously, everybody's a little short on pitching so we knew that there was going to be quite a few runs scored today. Obviously the wind blowing out," Petrovic said. "We had our chances. We just couldn't come up with the big hit."
The Indians were able to hit the ball hard all day. One of the hardest drives by either team was an opposite-field shot by Carnagio that was about a foot from being a home run.
"We had a lot of guys hit pretty deep fly balls today," Neushwander said. "Carnagio had a nice drive to the opposite field. Wittkamp had one."
What cost Minooka was a key Wittkamp throwing error in the third that allowed two runners to score, and the Indians' pitchers' inability to throw strikes in the Hilltoppers' big fifth.
That inning, Josh Mitchell and Steve Szymanski walked a combined four hitters - including Ira Hughes with the bases loaded.
"We walked a run in. In the inning where they scored four, we walked a run in," Petrovic said. "We gave them how many free runs today? You just can't win like that."
The Indians will have their second Southwest Prairie Conference series Tuesday-Thursday against Plainfield South.
A win over Joliet Catholic would have been yet another signature win to Minooka's resume, which includes the championship of the WJOL Tournament and a win over Providence, a team many thought was the best in the state heading into the season.
It would also have been the Indians' second victory over the Hilltoppers this season. Minooka beat Joliet Catholic 4-2 in the semifinals of the WJOL Tournament.
"It was great. We started off real well," Neushwander said of the team's non-conference success. "I don't really know what to say, it kind of sucks we lost
Joliet Catholic 1
Christian Sanchez and Jake Price were each 2 for 3 for the Indians. Price had two RBIs.
Steve Wittkamp went 2 for 3 with two doubles and Alex Bebar was 2 for 3 with a double in Minooka's loss Saturday.
Kevin Ruff took the loss, giving up seven earned runs in three innings of work.
The Indians' sophomore team swept Sandburg in a doubleheader, winning by scores of 10-2 and 6-3. Tyler Desmarais finished 2 for 3 with a double and an RBI, Dominick Matrisciano went 2 for 3 with a double and Nick Moretti was 3 for 4 with three RBIs.
Mitch Vigrin got the win to improve to 3-0. He threw three shutout innings, striking out seven. The Minooka sophomores are now 9-3.
Minooka's freshman team defeated Sandburg 15-8. Jake Neil went 3 for 5 with two RBIs for the Indians. Cole Thompson finished 3 for 4 with six RBIs and Jake Price was 3 for 5 with four RBIs.
The Indians are now 11-0 and 3-0 in conference play.
Minooka's freshman B team lost to Sandburg, 8-4. Andrew Sproitzer was 2 for 3 with a double for the Indians.