Morris falls to Crystal Lake Central – Shaw Local in the semifinals

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JOLIET — For most of the season, Morris was the team stringing together hits and piling up runs against its opponents.

Friday morning in the Class 3A state semifinals at Duly Health & Care Field, Crystal Lake Central turned the tables on Morris, handing them a 5-2 loss to snap a 19-game winning streak.

After the defeat, Morris will play in the third game against Highland on Saturday at 10 a.m., which lost 6-3 to Lemont in the other semifinal.

Crystal Lake Central (21-14) performed nearly flawlessly in every phase of the match. The Tigers got key hits with runners on base, moved into second by hitting to the right side, played sparkling defense and got strong pitching from both Rhett Ozment and Tommy Korn.

Neither team scored in the first two innings, although Morris (29-4) had two runners on base in both frames before Crystal Lake Central got all the runs it needed in the top of the third.

With one out, Carter Kelley singled before Jaden Obaldo was hit by a pitch. A bunt single by James Dreher loaded the bases before Sean Kempf singled to left to bring home Kelley and Obaldo for a 2-0 lead.

After a wild pitch moved the runners to second and third base, another single to left, this one by Connor Gibour, scored Dreher and courtesy runner Nolan Hollander to give the Tigers a 4-0 lead, with Gibour taking second reached on the throw home.

An out later, Andrew Welder singled up the middle, but Morris second baseman AJ Zweeres made a sliding backhanded stop and rose in time to throw out Gibour trying to score.

“That play in the third inning they reminded me of us,” Morris coach Todd Kein said. “They were kind of getting contagious hits and everyone was getting good swings. And they did it against a very good pitcher. No one had beaten Brett Bounds (who entered the game with an 8-0 record and 1.15 ERA) all year.

“All you have to do is tip your hat to Crystal Lake Central.”

Morris pitcher Brett Bounds delivers a pitch in a 5-2 loss to Crystal Lake Central in the Class 3A semifinals on Saturday.

Morris got a run back in the bottom of the third when Cody DelFavero (2 for 4, 2B, HR) launched a solo home run to right.

After a scoreless fourth, Morris put another run on the board on an RBI single to right by Merek Klicker (2 for 3, RBI). That hit brought in runner Steven Wagner, who took first place after Griffin Zweeres (2 for 4) singled and took second on a balk.

“Everyone on our team is hitting,” Klicker said. “I was up there chasing a fastball and trying to take it the other way, and that’s what I was able to do.”

Crystal Lake Central, meanwhile, flashed leather and kept Morris hitters off the base paths.

The Tigers made two excellent catches in the outfield.

In the third, just before DelFavero’s home run, Jack Wheeler sent a ball to deep center field. Center center fielder Welder raced back and dove Jim Edmond-style to catch the ball and prevent at least a triple and possibly an inside-the-park home run. On DelFavero’s next at-bat in the fifth inning, he sent a drive to right-center that looked like it would be a double or triple, but right fielder Kelley dove full field to catch the ball.

“We rolled up some balls, like we’ve done all year,” Kein said. “To their credit, their kids made some huge defensive plays. We had some chances in the first and second inning, but didn’t score in time. They certainly won the timely goal battle today.

“We hit the ball well, but sometimes they just don’t fall.”

Morris head coach Todd Kein talks to a referee during their Class 3A semifinal against Crystal Lake Central on Friday, June 7, 2024 at Duly Health and Care Field in Joliet.

Morris, which had the decisive lead in the stands with a huge crowd in attendance, will send ace DelFavero to the mound on Saturday in his final game of the season.

“I’m definitely ready to go,” DelFavero said.

Kein believes his entire team will be ready for the third-place match.

“We’re in the toughest spot in high school baseball,” he said. “No one wants to lose two games here. But the first and second are off the table and the third is next on the list, so we’ll go with that.

“I also can’t say enough about the support we’ve received, not only during this postseason run, but throughout the season. The parents, the booster club and the community have just rallied around these boys. “They have heavy hearts right now, but we have to have short memories, come back tomorrow and not let one loss stop us.”