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It was a post-season where the sectional and super-sectional games seemed much more difficult than the state finals for the South Central Cougars. The Cougars brought home the only state championship for the school in history.
South Central defeated Glen Carbon’s Father McGivney in the championship game of Illinois High School Association’s Class 1A baseball tournament last Thursday night, June 17 to capture the title. However the road to the victory was not an easy one through the sections.
Before they made it to state, the Cougars defeated the Louisville North Clay Cardinals 1-0 in a nail-biter, and then played into the bottom of the ninth inning against Goreville, with the winning run being walked in with the bases loaded, two outs and a full count.
Then came the trip to Normal.
“We went up the night before, and our hotel was 15 minutes from the field,” Coach Curt Jones explained. “We went out to eat at a restaurant, and went back to the hotel. At around 11 that night I heard some ruckus and they were out playing whiffle ball downstairs outside,” he laughed. “They were so relaxed with the tournament up there (Normal).”
The next afternoon the team had their semifinal matchup against Mt. Pulaski who had lost only one game all year. The Cougars weren’t too impressed with that and took an early 4-0 lead at the end of two. They allowed the Hilltoppers two runs in the bottom of the fourth, but broke the game wide open in the sixth, bringing seven runs across the plate, for an 11-2 lead.
After allowing three runs in the bottom of the frame, both teams were scoreless in the seventh inning for the 11-5 final, putting South Central into the evening game to meet Father McGivney for the championship.
Chase Dodson scored the win, and went 3 for 3 in the game, walked twice, and drove in two. Same Rubin went 3 for 4, and had one RBI. Chase Thompson was 3 for 5, with 2 RBIs; Aidan Dodson was 1 for 4 with an RBI; Sebastian Cowger went 1 for 4; Beau Jolliff was 0 for 3, but had 1 RBI; Andrew Magnus was 2 for 3 with an RBI, and Brandt Hiestand went 1 for 4.
C. Dodson went 5 innings, allowing 3 hits, 2 runs, striking out 11 and walking 6. Cowger came in on relief duty, pitching two innings, allowing 1 hit, striking out 3 and walking 1.
The Cougars faced off against Father McGivney in the championship at 7 p.m.
They took an early lead in the bottom of the third as Thompson singled to right and was brought around for the first score of the night, 1-0 Cougars.
The Grifins came back in the top of the fifth, scoring a run to tie up the score. However South Central could smell the win and in the bottom of the inning came scored three runs with one out. Hiestand got things started with a single on a bunt to third, followed by a double by Thompson to score Hiestand, 2-1. C. Dodson walked as did A. Dodson to put the ducks on the pond.
Cowger reached on an error by the second baseman and Thompson came across the plate, 3-1. Jolliff singled on a ground ball to the first baseman, allowing C. Dodson to score, as the Cougars took a 4-1 advantage into the sixth inning.
The bats were quiet for both teams, and the stage was set for the final three outs in the contest.
However the Griffins did not go out quietly.
With runners on at first and second, Gierer grounded into a double play, bringing a run across, for the second out and a 4-2 score. A walk left men at the corners as a fielder’s choice to Thompson ended the contest.
Thompson went 3 for 4 in the contest. C. Dodson was 1 for 2, and Hiestand and Jolliff were 1 for 3.
Thompson, C. Dodson, Cowger and Jolliff each had an RBI in the game.
Spencer Johannes got the win, going six innings, allowing six hits and two runs, while striking out 9 and walking 3. C. Dodson came in relief, pitching one inning.
South Central ends the year with a record of 26-3.
“We’ve been close many times over the years,” said Jones, finishing up his 24th year of coaching. “We finally got over the hump and won it. You couldn’t ask for anything better.”