For the first time since 2002, the Edwardsville Tigers will play for a state baseball championship.
Senior Andrew Yancik allowed five hits in a complete-game effort and drove in all three runs as the Tigers moved into the Class 4A championship game with a 3-1 win over (Burbank) St. Laurence on Friday at Joliet Slammers Stadium.
Facing one of the top pitchers in the state in Vikings senior Angel Sandoval, Yancik (6-1) gave the Tigers a 2-0 lead with a two-run single in the fourth inning, then added an RBI single in the sixth off reliever Marius Balandis to increase the lead to 3-1.
Yancik, who gave up only an unearned run in the bottom of the fourth, allowed a two-out double in the seventh to Alex Verta. But when Brian Lyle grounded out for the final out, the Tigers were in the state championship game.
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“Maybe a little nervous. I just tried to stay focused and make good pitches,” Yancik said of the seventh inning. “I’m just happy we won the game.”
The win moves Edwardsville (34-7) into the Class 4A state title game at 5 p.m. Saturday, where it will take on Crystal Lake South (35-5). The Gators advanced with a 9-3 win over New Trier in the first semifinal Friday.
The state title contest will be the fifth in school history for Edwardsville, which won the Class AA state championship in 1990 and 1998 under coach Tom Pile. The Tigers were second in 1991 and 2002.
Kade Burns (10-1) will get the start in the title game for Edwardsville.
“I guess it will be the biggest game I will have ever played in,” Burns said with a smile in the postgame press conference.
But Yancik, who shut out Normal West in a 7-0 win in the title game of the Bloomington sectional six days ago, was masterful Friday — both on the mound and at the plate.
Sandoval, who had given up only one hit through the first three innings, allowed a two-out single to Will Messer with two outs in the fourth inning. Dalton Wallace then walked, and Yaancik lined the first pitch from Sandoval into the left-center field gap, scoring both runners and giving his team a huge lift.
“I was looking first pitch fastball, and that’s what I got,” the soft-spoken Yancik said. “Yes, it felt good off the bat.”
St. Laurence got a run back in the bottom of the fourth inning when Johnny Peterson led off with a single and went to third base on a throwing error by Dalton Wallace.
Peterson then scored on a ground out by Jimmy Burnette to cut the lead to 2-1. But that would be as close as the Vikings would get as Yancik shut them down.
“He (Yancik) and Kade (Burns) have been lights out for us,” Edwardsville coach Tim Funkhouser said. “Our bullpen has been excellent, and they’re all primed and ready, but these two (Yancik and Burns) have just been so focused in the postseason. The whole team has been that way.”
Yancik’s single in the sixth, which also came on a first-pitch fastball, scored Joel Quirin to make it 3-1.
Yancik allowed a leadoff single to Peterson in the sixth but retired the next three hitters to get out of the inning.
“Sometimes you just have to tip your cap to the other pitcher,” Vikings coach Pete Lotus said. “I thought we had good swings at him (Yancik). He just made good pitches at the big moments of the game.”
Class 4A Baseball State Title Game
Edwardsville Tigers (34-7)
Colors: Orange and black
Coach: Tim Funkhouser
Last season: Lost to Belleville West 8-4, in regional final
Top hitters: Drake Westcott (444 11 HRs, 40 RBIs); Dylan Burris (.459, 5 HRs, 14 3Bs, 36 RBIs)
Top pitchers: Kade Burns (10-1, 1.11 ERA, 92 Ks); Andrew Yancik (5-1, 1.17 ERA, 62 Ks)
Crystal Lake South Gators (35-5)
Colors: Green, gold and white
Conference: Fox Valley
Coach: Brian Bogda
Last season: Lost to Fox Lake Grant 8-7 in regional semifinal
Top hitters: Brian Fuentes (448., 20 2Bs, 48 RBIs); Ryan Parquette (.435, 6 HRs, 35 RBIs)
Top pitchers: Kyle Lang (9-0, 1.18 ERA, 51 Ks): Andrew Engelking (8-0, 1.84 ERA, 54 Ks)