Plagued by an inconsistent offense and defense while playing in a tough Mississippi Valley Conference with Triad, Highland and league champion Mascoutah, the Bulldogs entered the Class 3A postseason as a distinct underdog heading into the Columbia Regional.
But with a 3-1 win in the regional final over top-seed Columbia and Missouri Tigers recruit Shane Wilhelm, the Bulldogs built some crucial momentum and now find themselves two wins away from the Class 3A state championship.
“I knew we had potential. Did I think we would have a five game postseason streak like this? I don’t know,” coach Mark Vogel said Wednesday. “Beating the Wilhelm kid in the regional final was a turning point because it gave us confidence. We’ve just carried it over from that point to now.”
Fresh off an 11-1 thrashing of Effingham at the Sauget Super-Sectional, the Bulldogs (22-12) will take on Burbank St. Laurence (33-5) at 10 a.m. Friday in the first of two semifinals at the Class 3A state tournament at Route 66 Stadium in Joliet.
St. Laurence is in its first season in Class 3A after having previously been in 4A before this year. They lost to Edwardsville in the state semifinals in 2017.
“It’s a quality baseball program. We know we have our work cut out. We’re just going to go out, compete and see what happens,” Vogel said.
Dixon (26-4) will play Lombard Montini (21-11) in the other game at 12 p.m. The two-semifinal winners will play for the Class 3A state title at 11 a.m. Saturday. The third place game is at 9 a.m.
The trip to the state finals in the fifth for Waterloo, which earned its only trophy in 2011 when it placed third in Class 3A. While the Bulldogs offense came alive with 14 hits in the win over Effingham on Monday, its been the Bulldogs pitching that put Waterloo in the state finals. Lead by the pitching duo of Drake Downing (7-3) and Dustin Crawford (11-2), Waterloo has allowed just five runs in its five postseason games.
“Our defense has really been very strong in the postseason but the main difference has been our pitching. We’ve got some quality arms, but (Drake) Downing and (Dustin) Crawford have just done a great job. Our pitching coach (Brian) Unger has really done a tremendous job with our pitchers.,” Vogel said.
Head Coach: Mark Vogel (27th year, 527-342-4)
Classification Enrollment: 806
Conference: Mississippi Valley
Last Year’s Advancement: Lost to Troy (Triad), 4-2, in Regional Semifinal
Key Players: 1B: Ty Kueper (.409, HR-1 RBI-26); SS: Josh Wittenauer (.388 RBI-16;); Dustin Crawford P-OF: (.302, RBI-15); C: Trey Kueper (.295 HR-1 RBI-15); P: Dustin Crawford (11-2, 1.45 ERA); P: Drake Downing (7-3, 1.,82 ERA)
State Tournament History: This is the Bulldogs fifth trip to the state finals
Burbank St. Laurence (33-5)
Head Coach: Pete Lotus (14th season, 404-115)
Classification Enrollment: 1130.25
Conference: Chicago Catholic
Last Year’s Advancement: Lost to Chicago (Mt. Carmel), 18-5, in Class 4A Sectional Semifinal
Key Players: P-IF: Matt McCormick (4.14, HR-9 RBI-49; P-IF: Vytas Valincius (.417 HR-3 RBI-42): INF:Matt Dombos (.310 HR-2 RBI-34) P; Chris Seropian (8-2, 2.47 ERA); P: Matt Zahora (8-0, 1.52 ERA)
State Tournament History: This is the Vikings third trip to the state tournament
Head Coach: Jason Burgess 4th season, 71-39)
Classification Enrollment: 742
Conference: Big Northern
Last Year’s Advancement: Lost to Rock Falls, 3-2, in Regional Semifinal
Key Players: SS-P: Ty Cole (.454, HR-4 RBI-45; OF: Payton Lawrence (.449, HR-1 RBI-32); OF: Oscar Van Sickle (.383 RBI-26); P: Payton Laurence (10-0, 1.37 ERA); P: Andrew Long (5-0, 1.03 ERA)
State Tournament History: The Dukes first state tournament appearance
Lombard Montini (21-11)
Head Coach: Rich Janor (3rd season, 59-41)
Classification Enrollment: 1047.75
Conference: Chicago Catholic League
Last Year’s Advancement: Lost to LaGrange Park (Nazareth Academy), 2-0, in Sectional Semifinal
Key Players: 1B-P:: Michael Sclafani (.414. HR-3 RBI-37); OF: Antione Harris (.405 HR-1 RB-22; OF: Nate Krenkow ( .359, HR-1 RBI-19); P: Michael Sc lafani (6-4, 2.29 ERA); P: Michael Koszewski (5-2, 2.97 ERA)
State Tournament History: This is Montini’s third trip to the state finals