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The South Central Cougars have chosen the most difficult paths to reach their first ever IHSA baseball state finals in Normal, as the sectional and supersectional games were barn burners.
In the supersectional, the Cougars faced off against Gorville. South Central was a number two ranked team, and Gorville was number one.
It took the bases loaded, with two outs, and the score tied at 14 in the bottom of the ninth inning for the Cougars to win the game on Monday evening, June 14, in the Carbondale supersectional.
It appeared that the Cougars had the game in hand, scoring nine runs through four innings, while shutting down Gorville. However, the Blackcats were ranked number one in the bracket for a reason.
They clawed their way back, scoring a total of 14 runs through the seventh inning, to take a 14-12 advantage into the bottom of the frame.
Chase Thomason led things off with a walk and was brought around on a double to left by Chase Dodson. With two outs, Beau Jolliff stepped up to the plate and also doubled to left, bring home Dodson, to tie the game at 14, sending it into extra innings.
Both pitchers held the other team scoreless in the eighth, and the Blackcats couldn’t put any runs on the board in the ninth.
However, not wanting the game to go too much longer, Farina decided to try to end it.
With one out, Dodson drew a walk and reached second as Aidan Dodson hit a pop fly, bobbled by the Gorville shortstop.
With two outs, Jolliff also walked, loading the bases.In fine dramatic form, and the count at 3-1, Sam Rubin watched as the pitch missed its mark, trotting to first, and bringing in the winning run, 15-14.
C. Dodson went 3 for 5 on the night, scoring 5 runs on the night.
Jolliff had a four-bagger in the sixth inning, driving in two runs, and having a total of 4 RBIs in the game. Brandt Hiestand helped his cause with two RBIs, and Thompson, C. Dodson, A. Dodson, Sebastian Cowger, and Sam Rubin each had an RBI in the game.
A. Dodson went 5.1 innings, allowing 5 hits and 5 runs, striking out 7 and walking 3. Spencer Johannes pitched for 2/3 of a inning, allowing two hits, 4 runs and 4 walks. Hiestand got the win, pitching the final three innings, allowing 5 hits and 5 runs in the slugfest, striking out 4 and walking 1.
South Central is 24-3, headed to play in the state semifinals against Mt. Pulaski, 21-1, at Normal at 1 p.m. on Thursday. Should they win, they will play the winner of the early game at 10, between Newark and Glen Garbon (Fr. McGivney), both earning number one bracket rankings, at 7 p.m., for the state championship. If they lose, they will play the loser of that game at 4 p.m. for third place.
The Cougars won both of the sectional games on the road to make it to Carbondale.
The Cougars earned three runs in the top of the third inning and never looked back as they played the Timberwolves at Okaw Valley High School on Wednesday, June 9. The Cougars took the game, 7-2.
Aidan Dodson was the workhorse in the game, going 3 for 4 at the plate, driving in 4 RBIs and getting the win on the mound, pitching 5 1/3 innings. He struck out 9 and walked 9 in the contest, allowing only two hits. Spencer Johannes came in on relief, pitching 1 2/3 innigns, allowing only one hit, striking out and walking 3.
C. Dodson went 2 for 3 in the game, and Cowger had two RBIs. Hiestand had the other RBI in the game.
The sectional final played at Louisville on Friday, was a nail-biter, as the Cougars won, 1-0.
The Cougars scored the only run of the game in the second, as Jolliff grounded to the Cardinal second baseman and reached on an error. Rubin next singled to center, advancing Jolliff to second.
With two outs, including a deep fly ball by Johannes to right field, Jolliff moved to third after taggin gup. Hiestand next bunted for a single, bring in Jolliff for the score.
C. Dodson went the full seven innings in the game allowing only 2 hits, striking out 8 and walking four in the shutout. He threw the ball 101 times, with 57 of those being strikes.