Home World Joshua Holst, Libertyville win regional title

Joshua Holst, Libertyville win regional title


When a pitcher has the type of stuff that Libertyville junior left-hander Joshua Holst features in his repertoire, he can get out of trouble more often than not.

But Holst’s refusal to concede sets him apart.

“My No. 1 goal is to beat the guy in the box,” he said. “I don’t care if there’s bases loaded or no outs, I want to beat him.”

The 6-foot-2, 205-pound Holst, who went 5-2 with a 1.40 ERA during the regular season, obviously wins many of those matchups, and the Air Force commit came out on top in all of the clutch moments during the Class 4A Libertyville Regional championship game on Saturday.

Holst struck out nine and allowed just two hits while navigating an unusually high five walks over seven innings in the second-seeded Wildcats’ 3-1 win against 11th-seeded Lake Zurich.

Libertyville (26-9-2) advances to the Stevenson Sectional semifinals to play Conant (26-7) at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday because Holst managed to overcome several tricky situations. Those arose in part because he respects a lineup that beat him during the regular season and hit Illinois recruit Luke Weber hard in the Bears’ 13-0 win against Highland Park on Thursday.

“I’ve always known them as a really good-hitting team,” Holst said. “Last time, they pieced a couple of balls against me. My emphasis was to work around them and work inside a little bit more.”

Lake Zurich (18-12) had runners on second and third with one out in the fourth inning. But Holst got the next two batters, including Owen Strahl, to ground out, which yielded only a single unearned run.

In the fifth, Holst walked two and hit a batter to load the bases with one out. But he got UIC recruit Jonathan Fleaka to pop out and then struck out Parkland commit Ryan Kondrad on a 3-2 curveball that catcher Quinn Schambow handled.

“I faced (Kondrad) before in conference, and I had been fastball-heavy all game, so with 3-2, I thought why not switch it up,” Holst said. “He’s definitely sitting heater, and I had confidence in my breaking ball, and I had confidence that Quinn was going to catch it.”

Libertyville's winning pitches starts celebrating on the mound as Lake Zurich's finial batter hits a pop fly to the outfield.  Josh Holst (15)Libertyville defeated Lake Zurich's baseball teams 3-1 in the Class 4A Libertyville Regional championship Saturday, May 25, 2024. (Rob Dicker/for the Lake New-Sun)
Libertyville pitcher Joshua Holst reacts after inducing a game-ending pop-up against Lake Zurich in the Class 4A Libertyville Regional championship game on Saturday, May 25, 2024. (Rob Dicker / News-Sun)

Holst, who entered the game with 86 strikeouts to 23 walks, issue two more free passes in the seventh. But Schambow, an Oklahoma State commit, picked off a runner at second on a failed bunt attempt.

“I love that,” Schambow said of the back pick. “It’s probably my favorite part of the game. I just have to help my pitcher out there. We do that all the time, and I knew it was going to happen.”

Holst and the Wildcats welcome the help in those instances, but it’s usually not needed. He and Chase Lockwood, who doubled in two runs in the third inning, are a formidable one-two duo in the rotation.

When asked what differentiates Holst from other area pitchers with similar tools, Libertyville coach Matt Thompson points not to Holst’s left arm but to his grit.

“You can have all of the tools — size, arm strength — but there’s something about that competitiveness,” Thompson said. “When you get on the field, not just in a lesson, in the cage or at a showcase, what do you do when you’re met with adversity? You saw that today.”

Holst has gained that trait over time. He recalls the welcoming he received during a late-season game against Grayslake Central when he was a freshman. He allowed a walk, a hit and a three-run homer.

“I’ve never been more disappointed in myself,” Holst said. “After that, a gear switched. Coming into last year, I realized that I have to beat every hitter. I can’t just let them get themselves out.”

Schambow has caught Holst for years and has seen that mentality develop. Schambow also knows players don’t relish batting against Holst these days.

“The intimidation factor is very real,” Schambow said. “No one wants to face him. Last inning, with first and second, no one out, it didn’t faze him. He knew what to do. He’s always confident in himself.”

Holst’s confidence should serve him well going forward.

“Competitiveness has kind of run my life,” he said. “That’s why I want to go to Air Force. They aim to be the top of the top, the best of the best, and I’m going to fight for my country that way. And it’s the same on the field, where I have to be better than them on every pitch. This is preparing me for later in life.”

Steve Reaven is a freelance reporter.

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