Brimfield/Elmwood lose supersection 2A to Joliet Catholic
GENESEO – Frank Kelch and Drew Bryant and others reached the end of their high school baseball journey on Monday as their Brimfield/Elmwood Team reached the end of its season.
The Indians gave up a seven-run second inning and couldn’t recover in a 10-0 loss to Joliet Catholic in the Illinois High School Association. Geneseo Class 2A Supersection at Bollen Field.
It was a frustrating end to a terrific season which saw Brimfield go 31-3.
“This team has faced so much in these four years, so much adversity, been through so much,” said Kelch, who hit over .400 for Brimfield this season as he pitched and played. at first base. “We lost a year to COVID. I had Tommy John surgery as a junior. Then we lost classmates, friends too.”
In the latter case, he was referring to a series of tragedies in which current and former classmates died. Specifically, Aaron Miller, who would have been on that pitch on Monday, playing alongside Kelch and senior pitcher Bryant if he hadn’t died in a car accident in 2020.
“He’s always in our thoughts,” Kelch said. “The first pitch of the game, I thought of Aaron. I looked in the stands and saw his parents there. He will always be with us.”
The Indians were outplayed on the field on Monday, playing a non-bordering Joliet team that was much larger and competed in Class 3A in 2019. The Hilltoppers are 24-10 on a 2021-22 schedule that included 11 games against teams currently in the Class 3A Playoffs.
“There were 180 schools placed in Class 2A this year and 140 in Class A,” said Brimfield coach Brandon Porter. “Joliet has a lot more registrations, what are we doing there to play them? It’s just not right, this has to settle down.
“But they were better than us, give them credit for the way they played. They could very well win the state.”
The fateful second round
Joliet sophomore southpaw Jake Gimbel was on the hill for Joliet Catholic and threw a one-hitter shutout, striking out eight while walking two and hitting two batters in four innings.
Kelch had nine at-bats in the first quarter, including four fouls, before walking on a full count. Landon Binder’s single in the second inning was Brimfield’s only hit.
The second inning was a disaster for Brimfield, as Joliet Catholic sent 11 batters home, scored seven times and chased Kelch off the mound.
The big right-hander threw 40 pitches in the inning and recovered one. Two points scored on wild pitches and another on a goal-laden walk. There were two hit batters and one error.
One of Joliet’s four hits in the inning was an infield single that Kelch slid onto the turf after fielding the ball. Then, with the wind whipping 22 mph and wreaking havoc on outfielders, came a wind-assisted towering fly to left field that blew almost to the infield and dropped for a single.
When Porter exited the dugout to head for the mound, Kelch was already several paces away, waiting with the ball in hand, arm outstretched, waiting for the coach to take it. He allowed seven runs (six earned) on four hits, four walks, one hit at batter and two wild pitches.
“I couldn’t get a 1-2-3 inning,” Kelch said. “And I couldn’t pull out a 1-2-3, there was no batting routine. I didn’t know what else to do.”
The Indians brought in right-hander Bryant after Kelch hit 64 pitches in the 1⅓ inning. Joliet Catholic extended their lead to 7-0 when a fielder’s pick brought a run, then an error on receiver Kyle Binder when his throw to second on a steal attempt bounced into center field for another.
“I knew that wasn’t the best position to be in there when I got there,” Bryant said. “I understood the situation.
“It’s a matter of relationships”
In the end, the game was reduced to five innings due to the 10-run margin, Brimfield met one last time in short left field while Joliet celebrated in a championship ceremony at home plate.
“They had a lot of breaks,” Porter said. “Our seniors have fought so hard, this team has been through so much. This senior class, they’ve won more games than any group in our history.”
He told his players he knew how disappointed they were, told them he loved them all, told them it was important to see the bigger picture.
“Joliet is a good team,” Porter said. “But we’re also a really good team. Take that second run away and we’re still playing right now. We’ve had a good season.”
He hugged his elders, including Kelch and Bryant, who in turn hugged before the group broke up.
Kelch will play at Carl Sandburg next season. Bryant will play at Augustana College.
They will play together on Team North at the McDonald’s High School Showcase on June 21. After that, they will never be teammates again.
“We know each other, we’ve been playing together since T-ball,” Bryant said. “The season ends, the team changes…but relationships continue. It’s not just baseball, it’s relationships.”
Dave Eminian is the Journal Star’s sports columnist and covers men’s basketball for Bradley, the Rivermen and the Chiefs. He writes the sports column Cleve In The Eve for pjstar.com. Contact him at 686-3206 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @icetimecleve.