COAL CITY — It’s fairly safe to say that at no time in history of the Coal City, Seneca baseball rivalry have the two teams been so evenly matched. While Coal City did come away with a decisive 12-5 victory in Seneca in the Interstate Eight Conference series opener, it was the Fighting Irish who came up with a big 8-7 victory this time around.
“We play them twice a year in our division and you want to at least get them once,” Seneca outfielder Logan Pifer said. “They got us pretty good the first time so we wanted to come back and get a win to tie it up 1-1.”
“When us and Seneca get together, it’s always a rivalry game,” Coal City coach Jerry McDowell said. “You expect it to be close and you never know.”
Coal City has had the upper hand in the most recent years of the rivalry, especially when the two are playing at John H. Cullick Field.
“It’s a good win. Coal City has a good program. They are well coached and it’s been a while since we’ve beaten them over here,” Seneca coach Kirk Houghin said. “I ‘d say it’s been at least five years since we’ve won over here. If we win here it’s usually a close and crazy game like today.”
“Seneca did a good job,” McDowell reciprocated. “They are well coached and they made some nice plays defensively in the outfield and their infielder made a nice stab of a linedrive over his head. They made the plays and came out on top of it.”
Considering that Coal City has had just three losing seasons since 1952 according to IHSA.org, the fact that both teams are playing against each other with sub-.500 records is also somewhat surprising.
“On that side of .500, in the last 20 years our worst record has been 18-14,” McDowell said. “We’re down five games under .500 right now and hopefully we can get on a winning streak. We need to get things going so the kids can get some confidence again.”
Coal City is now 5-10 on the season and 4-5 in the league. Seneca, meanwhile, is 9-14 overall and 4-7 in conference.
“Up until the last series with Lisle, we had won six out of eight games,” Houchin said. “We’re playing better baseball. Then we got beat 4-0 and played Lisle a close game. Coal City is an excellent program. This is kind of atypical of a Coal City season, but we’re more focused on getting ready for regionals and playing good ball. Winning this game was just another step in that direction.”
No matter what the records, though, fans were treated to an entertaining game on Wednesday.
“I don’t think records mean anything,” Pifer said. “Yeah, you could have a good record and play a team with a bad record and it doesn’t matter. We did the same thing with Marquette when we upset them. If you get timely hitting or timely fielding and make the plays, that’s what determines how the game plays out.”