Close Menu Element

Mobile Search Element

Main Container Header

Upper Container

Lower Container

jths logo white

By Randy Whalen

Years from now the 2024 Joliet West baseball team won't remember the final result. The guys will remember the journey. 

That journey resulted in the Tigers getting the most wins in school history. It also gave them some of the best times of their young lives. 

"This year's team was definitely one of the most special groups West has had in years and we didn’t disappoint," Joliet West senior Jimmy Anderson said. "We set the record for most wins in a season, as well as winning a conference championship. Even though it ended earlier than we wanted there were still many positive notes to take away from the season."

Fellow senior Casey Tyrell echoed those thoughts.

"This season was something I’ll remember for the rest of my life," Tyrell said. "This senior group was special and I am so thankful I got to be a part of it. I switched my approach this season to just taking it one game at a time and I’m glad I did because of all the memories I made. We broke many records and achieved many goals."

Joliet West entered this season with high expectations and more than lived up to them. The Tigers record was 7-3 after a pair of losses in the WJOL Tournament. The last of those was a 10-2 loss to Providence in the third place game of the tourney. All Providence (33-8) did was go on to win the Class 4A State Championship with a 4-1 win over Conant on Saturday, June 8 at Duly Health and Care Field in Joliet.

But that loss fueled the Tigers, who won 25 of the next 26 games, only losing 7-5 to Lincoln-Way West, which was undefeated at that time, at home on Friday, April 19. But the next day, Anderson had a 2-run single in the bottom of the seventh as Joliet West defeated Andrew 4-3 in a nonconference game. 

That started a 15-game winning streak as Joliet West reached the 30-win mark for the first time in school history and also went undefeated (15-0) in capturing the Southwest Prairie Conference East Division title for the first time since 2021. 

In a coincidence, the Tigers were back at Andrew for a Class 4A Regional. They defeated crosstown rival Joliet Central 10-0 on Wednesday, May 22 in a semifinal game. But on Saturday, May 25, Joliet West, the No. 3 seed in the Providence Sectional, lost 10-3 to the host Thunderbolts, who were the No. 6 seed in the sectional, in the regional title game.

It was the 16th regional title in school history for Andrew (25-12). But it was just the second regional title since 2010 for the T-Bolts, who lost to Providence 5-1 on Wednesday, May 29 in a sectional semifinal. The Tigers (32-5) have 10 regional championships in school history, including back-to-back ones in 2021 and 2022. But they haven't won a sectional since the last time they were at state, in Class AA in 1983. 

That 1983 team finished 28-4 and had the school record for wins. But this group shattered the win record and more importantly, had a ton of fun and good times along the way.

"This year's team was something special," senior James Love exclaimed. "We have built this team up for four years and the hype we had was real. We all worked hard at 7 am in the weight room and it all paid off.

"I believe we had the best team to ever walk through the doors of Joliet West. The season didn’t end how we wanted it but it was sure a season to remember. I didn’t cry as much as I thought because I was so beyond proud of everyone who was able to make our season happen."

Tyrell agreed.

"To have it end like it did was not fitting but that is baseball," Tyrell said. "To leave the field with my teammates that last time was one of the saddest moments of my life. We were such a tight group of kids who grew up with each other every step of the way. It was sad to have that come to an end but I’m grateful it happened. 

"I know we do not have the trophy to show for it but I think it is hard to argue against the fact that we were one of the best West baseball teams ever if not the best."

Love appreciated the love and the legacy that this team left.

"From teammates to coaches to fans Joliet West left a legacy with the team we had," Love said. "Now the question is what new faces are going to step up and continue the legacy we left? My four years at Joliet West have been the best years of my life. Starting on varsity for four years has been an honor and a blessing and I am so thankful for the opportunity Coach Karch gave me. People believed in me and I was given confidence that I'm still bestowed with to this day."

Coach Karch is John Karczewski, who completed his 13th season as head coach and now has an overall record of 249-195-4. His teams have won 20 or more games nine times, including the past five completed (there was no season in 2020) years in a row.

This season's squad received numerous SPC honors. Seniors Anderson, Love, Cael Karczewski, Tyrell, Juan Rico, and Owen Young were named All-Conference. 

Tyrell, who was also the Joliet West mascot, Tails the Tiger, was named SPC Pitcher of the Year. His final regular season stats were a 5-0 record, with 35 innings pitched, 11 earned runs, 30 strikeouts, and a 2.20 ERA.

In the SPC, Tyrell, who will continue his college career at Indiana University South Bend, had a 4-0 record in 20 innings pitched, with five earned runs, 22 strikeouts, and a 1.75 ERA.

"I am so thankful to win the conference Pitcher of the Year award," Tyrell said. "It was an honor I had in mind and to achieve it is hard to put into words. I could not have done it without the defense behind me. Knowing that you have the infielders as I did behind me made pitching so much easier.

"Then of course having Owen Young behind the plate is another plus. I have thrown to him since middle school so we have a trust between the both of us where we know each other's next move which is vital to have between a pitcher and catcher. I was blessed to be named the Pitcher of the Year after winning Mr. Alpha Omega, which is awarded to the best male student at Joliet West. These past few months have been the best of my life and I’m glad I got to experience it all at Joliet West High School."

Anderson, who will continue his academic and athletic career at Heartland Community College, was named the Player of the Year in the SPC. His season numbers were excellent, starting with a .473 batting average, a .550 on-base percentage, a .809 slugging percentage, and a 1.359 on-base plus slugging percentage. 

Those stats include 52 hits, 18 doubles, two triples, five home runs, 48 RBI, and  37 runs scored. 

"It was a high honor to receive the Player of the Year," Anderson said. "Late nights and early mornings during the winter that showed during the season. I got off to a slow start but found my groove early and just kept feeding off the positive energy I had. It’s been a pleasure to play four years of varsity baseball at Joliet West as well as playing along many different players over the years. 

"One of the best teammates that was along with me was James Love. Him and I played together for years before and trained together as well. It was a good run for him and me and I'm excited to see what we do in the future of our careers. It’s been a blessing to share my skills and knowledge with the younger class and see what they carry on for years to come."

There were 14 special seniors on this season's team. They were Anderson, Christian Chignoli, Albert Del Real, Karczewski, Jose Leal, Love, Matthew Marchiniak, Tyler Moore, Joshua Prosise, Rico, Parker Schwarting, Joseph Tyderek, Tyrell, and Young.

Love had quite a four-year varsity career. He batted .417, going 148 for 355. Of his school-record 148 hits, 54 were for extra bases. He laced 13 home runs while knocking in 113 runners. He walked 83 times, scored 121 runs, and only struck out 32 times in 355 at-bats. 

An Eastern Illinois University commit, Love batted .456 this season with an on-base percentage of .572, a slugging percentage of .796, and a 1.369 on-base plus slugging percentage. He had 47 hits, including 15 doubles, a triple, six home runs, 44 RBI, 46 runs scored, 22 walks, 10 hit by pitches, and only four strikeouts in 138 plate appearances. 

"I was grateful for our coaching staff letting me and other seniors Jimmy Anderson, Owen Young, and Cael Karczewski lead the way from sophomore year," Love said. "The confidence that I had with the belief from everyone has made me who I am and helped me stay confident throughout the four years.

"The hit record I hope will never be beaten but I am willing to see who will step up for the Tigers from years to come. I am excited to see how Joliet West will do for years to come and will be watching as our Tiger legacy continues."

  • District
  • West