PEORIA — Austin Beccue may be No. 2 on the Gibault High pitching depth chart, but you'd have a tough time convincing anyone that watched him Friday at the Class 1A state baseball tournament.
The junior right-hander shut down Shawnee on one hit through six innings and got plenty of offensive support in the Hawks' 9-2 semifinal victory at Dozer Park.
"I just did what I've one my entire life, kept the ball down and focused on not getting the strikeouts but more on trusting my defense and getting the ground balls," said Beccue, who was sharp despite a 41-minute rain delay. "You work your whole life for this moment and we're one step away. It feels great."
Gibault (24-11) will try to win its first state baseball title when it takes on Putnam County (24-10) at 11:30 a.m. Saturday.
"It's a big step for our school," said Beccue, who allowed only a fourth-inning single to Austin Treece and struck out six while allowing two runs (one earned). "We've been working the last two years for this opportunity and to finally be one step away it means the world to me. This team's been everything to me for the last six months or so, so it feels really good."
Getting a couple runs early seemed to infuse Beccue and the Hawks with confidence. Gibault led 2-1 until scoring four runs in the sixth and three more in the seventh to break things wide open.
"It's what he's been doing all year," Gibault shortstop Wes Degener said of Beccue. "He's been solid and throws strikes, just lets his defense do the work."
A leadoff walk to Mitch Meyer led to a Gibault run in the first inning. Meyer stole second and went to third on a single by Degener before scoring on a grounder to the hole at short by Matt Schreder.
A two-out error by Shawnee shortstop Dylan Boston led to another Gibault run in the third. Gibault's Chandler Purcell stole second and reached third on a balk, then scored when Degener fouled off several pitches before bouncing an RBI single over the head of the first baseman.
"Early we had some good at bats and put a couple runs up on the board," Gibault coach Andy Skaer said. "Late in the game we just kind of exploded. They gave us some extra outs and we took advantage and kept things moving, stayed aggressive on the bases."
Shawnee cut Gibault's lead to 2-1 in the fourth. Austin Treece reached on a leadoff single and scored from third on a double steal.
A bunt single by Degener started the sixth and he scored all the way from first on a wild pickoff throw that was misplayed again down the right field line.
"They fumbled the ball around a little bit in right field and with Wes's speed we were able to get him around all the way from first base," Skaer said. "That was a really big run because that put us up 3-1 and then we just kept rolling from there. They gave us a few more outs and we just kept pushing the issue."
Following two more Shawnee errors, the Hawks broke the game open on a two-run double to the fence in left by Ryley Wallin that gave them a 5-1 lead.
The teams combined for 11 errors, including six by Gibault.
"It was one of those things where when we made the errors, they made us pay for it," Shawnee coach Chad Pitts said. "When they made the errors, we really didn't really make them pay for it. It was just a sloppy game all the way around.
"I'm not sure if weather played a part in it. It probably did, but they were more opportunistic than we were."
Gibault added an insurance run in the sixth on a wild pitch, then tacked on three more in the seventh. Meyer singled and scored on a wild pitch and Auggie Ward's two-run single made it 9-1.
Beccue tired in the seventh, issuing a pair of walks to load the bases. Ward came on in relief and got the final three outs in succession, with Shawnee scoring a run on a sacrifice fly.
It was Gibault's first state baseball tournament appearance since 1997, while Shawnee hadn't made the trip since 1981.
The rain delay, combined with the usual nervous anticipating of playing at the state tournament, might have bothered some pitchers.
"We faced a rain delay in our sectional final game that was two hours, so I didn't warm up before then," said Beccue, who stretched and played catch, also doing some light running. "Today I was pumped and I was ready to go, then we got the rain delay. I stayed loose, kept focused and stayed on task with the job."