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Local

Gear up for excitement on the diamonds

From left: Morris baseball seniors Andrew Wojcik, Andy Peters, Ben Larson, Kenny Graman, Dylan Callahan and Luke Bardash stand with their parents before the Senior Day game last week.
From left: Morris baseball seniors Andrew Wojcik, Andy Peters, Ben Larson, Kenny Graman, Dylan Callahan and Luke Bardash stand with their parents before the Senior Day game last week.

Well, it’s that time of year again. The weather is starting to warm up a bit, leaves are showing up in earnest on the trees, and Memorial Day is just around the corner.

Which means, in the high school sports world, that regionals and sectionals are kicking into full swing.

On the baseball and softball diamonds, it means that there is no writing off
games if you fall behind early, saying, “We’ll get them next time,” like you can in a conference game. No, this is one loss and pack it in until next year time. And, for most of the seniors on most of the teams, a loss will mean the end of their playing careers.

That’s why it’s a fun time to go and catch a game if you can. No team and no player wants their season to end and you are going to see 100 percent effort from the first pitch to the last. High school sports can turn on a dime and any little thing can be the trigger. A close pitch on a 3-2 count could make or break an inning or a season. A ball hit just 2 inches to the right or left becomes fair or foul and an inning or a season continues.

I saw that in person Monday. Just as I thought I was settling in to watching a classic pitcher’s duel between Gardner-South Wilmington and Dwight, Gardner-South Wilmington’s bats, which had been relatively quiet for four innings, exploded for 10 runs in two innings and suddenly the pitcher’s duel was a 10-run rule decision. It can happen that quickly.

It’s the time of year when the teams that are on a hot streak or have a dominant pitcher or two become that team that no one wants to play, regardless of what seed they are or where the game is held.

For fans who want to stay local, both baseball and softball have a regional in which they can see for themselves.

Coal City’s baseball team is certainly in the category of being hot right now. Not long ago, the Coalers were up and down, sporting a 9-5 record.

Since then, Coal City has gone 18-1 and, believe me, no team in Class 3A wants to see the Coalers, especially with freshman pitcher Payton Hutchings doing his best Chris Sale impersonation and recording double-digit strikeouts nearly every time he takes the mound. I’ve been around the game a long time, and there aren’t many ways to score runs if the opposing pitcher doesn’t let you put the ball in play.

Morris seems to have its ace back up its sleeve as well, as Andy Peters returned to the mound Monday for a tune-up after a bout with a sore arm. His presence on the mound gives the Redskins a good chance against anyone.

Morris and Coal City have the possibility of squaring off in the title game of the Coal City Regional at 11 a.m. May 27, provided the Redskins – seeded sixth in the Ottawa Sectional – can get past No. 7 seed LaSalle-Peru on Monday and No. 2 Manteno on Wednesday and No. 4 Coal City can top No. 5 Ottawa on Thursday.

On the softball diamond, Morris hosts its own regional, and with the Class 3A sectional field loaded with quality teams such as Providence Catholic, Joliet Catholic Academy, Bishop McNamara, Coal City and Tinley Park, the Redskins, who spent some time as the top-ranked team in the state in Class 3A earlier this season, will need every edge they can get.

May 27 is the scheduled date of the Morris Regional and, if the seeds hold true, it sets up a rematch between the Redskins and Providence Catholic. Providence beat Morris a few weeks ago on a walk-off home run at its field, and another meeting between the two teams promises to deliver on the excitement meter.

So, come on out and enjoy the nice weather, support your local team and take in an exciting game or two. You won’t be sorry.

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