It took the Southwestern Illinois College Blue Storm 24 regular-season games and a tough three-game series win over Shawnee College to put itself in a good position to win their first Region 24 title since the 2009 season.
It took a lot less time for the Blue Storm’s season to come to an end.
The Lincoln Trail College Statesmen sent nine men to the plate in a four-run second inning and never trailed as they ended top-seed SWIC’s season with a 10-5 win in the Region 24 Baseball Tournament on Saturday at Rent One Park.
Taking advantage of an uncharacteristic wild streak by SWIC starter Ty Stahl, Lincoln Trail (27-22) used a pair of walks, an error and run-scoring singles by Nick McCormick and Jack Holden to take the lead.
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Cody Hall drew a bases-loaded walk and Frank Maloney added an RBI fielder’s choice for Lincoln Trail, which broke the game open with a four-run seventh inning.
“Once again, I don’t think we played poorly. For the most part our defense was good and I think we actually outhit them (11-9) for the game. The difference was the walks. We just gave them too many chances and they got big hits when they needed them,’’ Blue Storm coach Neil Fiala said. “Unfortunatly in junior college baseball, unless you win the national championship, you end the season with two losses.
“It’s disaponting for the kids because we had such a great year and to come in here and not play as well as we could have, makes it even tougher to take. But that’s the way baseball is sometimes.’’
For the second day in a row the start of the game was delayed by rain for over three hours. The delay seemed to have an effect on tbe Blue Storm, especially with runners on base.
One day after stranding 14 runners in a 2-1 loss to Kaskaskia, SWIC (30-18) stranded 10 on Saturday against Statesmen hurlers Weston Rivers and Konnor Eck.
SWIC’s first threat came following Lincoln Trail’s four-run second inning.
In the bottom of the second, former Triad standout Dylan Johnson led off with the first of his three hits and went to second an out later when Luke Bakula added a sharp single up the middle.
But Rivers, a 6-foot-4, 240-pound southpaw, fanned Collin Holton and got Adam Schnurbusch to end the threat.
Rivers had his own control issues in the third inning, walking both Sean Murley and Dan Holst to lead off.
Two outs later, Johnson drove in both runners with his second hit of the day. Eck then took over for Rivers, holding SWIC scoreless until the eighth.
By that time, Lincoln Trail led 8-2.
“We’ve been a team that has had the ability to pick each other up,” Fiala said. “We just didn’t get the big hits this weekend when we needed them.”
Maloney, who finished the day 3-of-4 with four RBIs, along with Chris Deaville and McCormick had RBI singles in the Lincoln Trail seventh inning, which also featured a rare-throwing error by Murley.
Maloney then added a two-run double in the eighth as the Statesmen’s lead grew to 10-2.
SWIC catcher Jake Daily made it 10-4 with a two-run single and the Blue Storm added another run in the eighth, cutting the Lincoln Trail lead to 10-5.
Contact reporter Dean Criddle at email@example.com or 618-239-2661.