The Southwestern Illinois College Blue Storm regular season can be summed up in one word — inconsistent.
Young and untested when the season began, the Blue Storm has had the look of a team that could compete with and beat any team in the Great Rivers Athletic Conference one day and a team which would struggle the next.
“It’s just been one of those years where we’ve been inconsistent from the start,” Blue Storm coach Neil Fiala said. “We’ve had days when we’ve hit the ball well and the pitching has let us down and then the next day our pitchers will give up two or three runs and we’ll score one run.
“In every phase of the game, pitching, hitting and defense, we’ve been inconsistent. You have years like that.”
The Blue Storm will look to put three solid games together this weekend when it competes in a first-round playoff series in the rugged Region 24 at Wabash Valley College in Mount Carmel. Seeded seventh in the eight-team bracket, SWIC (25-25) will take on the second-seeded Warriors (41-11) in a best two-out-of-three series beginning at noon on Saturday.
Game two will follow and if needed a third and decisive game would be played at noon on Sunday, also on the Warriors’ home field. One of four first round Region 24 playoff series behind held this weekend, the Wabash Valley-SWIC winner will advance to the Final Four in Region 24 which begins on May 13 and is being hosted by John A. Logan College.
The season series
Wabash Valley defeated the Blue Storm twice this season, 6-1 and 3-2, while the Blue Storm’s lone win came by a 3-1 score.
“It was a good series. Even the 6-1 game was one we were in until later in the game,’’ Fiala said. “Wabash Valley is a very good baseball team, but they aren’t unbeatable., If our guys come out and play the the way at times this year then we can beat them. If we come out and kick the ball around, we have no chance. It’s that simple.’’
Fiala plans to start former Belleville East standout Anthony Garza in game one on Saturday. After that, it’s up in the air.
“We have some options. We’ll have to see how the first game goes. If we get into a situation where we need a pitcher who may start game two, to get an out or two in the first game, we’ll do it. Then we’ll go with other options in games two and three,” Fiala said. “The one thing we must do this weekend is pitch well. They (Wabash Valley) have very good pitching and we may not score a lot of runs. We need the games to be low scoring.
“If they score six or seven runs a game then we’re probably not going to win. We’ve got a chance to advance if we come out and play the type of baseball we can play.”