SATURDAY SENTINEL: Locals finding something to salvage, even as their seasons end
In remote, exotic locations to Grundy County residents like Ottawa and Seneca, I’ve watched some local prep seasons end in varying ways during the past several days.
Two of the better baseball games I’ve ever seen in person spelled the end of the road for Coal City and Morris at last week’s 3A Ottawa Regional. First, the Redskins knocked out the Coalers with a 3-2 victory on May 22.
It wasn’t supposed to be that competitive a game on paper, not when the Redskins entered with 26 wins to Coal City’s 12 and not after they’d badly beaten the Coalers twice during the regular season. But Coal City freshman Brad Littleton threw 6 1/3 very strong innings to give the Coalers a chance, and after six frustrating innings, the Coalers scored twice to tie the game in the top of the seventh before Morris won it in the bottom half.
“I can’t say enough about Brad Littleton,” Coal City coach Jerry McDowell said. “Putting a freshman out there in that situation, it’s tough. He threw strikes, he kept them off-balance and he gave us a chance to win.”
The drama, the high level of play and the disappointment for a local team continued three days later in the regional championship. Just like the Coalers had done to them, the Redskins rallied in the seventh inning to tie the game against La Salle-Peru. Just like the Coalers, the Redskins later had their season ended anyway. L-P scratched across a run in the top of the ninth inning and held on for a 4-3 victory. The Cavaliers went on to lose 4-2 to Peoria Notre Dame this week at the Washington Sectional.
It was a disappointing end to a very successful season for the Redskins, but it was a great high school baseball game in a great atmosphere. Despite overcast conditions that promised rain before and throughout the game which never came, there was a large crowd — and one largely partisan for the Redskins — in attendance.
“I just don’t have words to describe the great level of support that was shown for our team today,” Morris coach Todd Kein said. “A little support goes a long way for these kids, and we’ve extremely appreciative of all the people that made the trip over this morning to support our team.”
The game wasn’t quite as competitive this Tuesday when I caught the end of Gardner-South Wilmington’s historic softball run at the Class 1A Seneca Super-Sectional. GSW was down 5-0 by the middle of the third inning and wound up losing 8-1 to Illini Bluffs.
“There has been no (GSW) girls softball team that’s ever finished their season in the Elite Eight,” GSW coach Jon Posing said. “I couldn’t be prouder.”
There’s only one local baseball or softball team left — Minooka softball. We’ll find out tomorrow whether the Indians’ season will end at the Lincoln-Way East Sectional or continue into next week.