COAL CITY – Just like his coach told him to, Alex Cameron was just looking to stay smooth.
With the Class 3A Coal City baseball regional championship tied at 2 in the top of the seventh, Morris' Cameron came to the plate with two runners on and two outs against Coal City reliever Connor Best, who had just tied the game with a solo home run in the bottom of the sixth.
Best struck out the first two hitters in top of the seventh, but he hit Jacob Overbeck and walked Zach Reddinger to bring up Cameron. The Redskin center fielder worked the count to 2-2 before finding a pitch he could handle. He put a smooth swing on it and drove it to the left-center gap, scoring both Overbeck and Reddinger for a 4-2 Morris lead.
"Coach Kein told me before I went up there to stay smooth through the zone," Cameron said. "When I can do that, things take care of themselves.
"It feels amazing to win a regional as a senior, especially after coming so close the last few times we have played Coal City. We definitely have a chip on our shoulder because it feels like teams are overlooking us, but we seniors told the rest of the team before the game that we don't have 20-some wins by accident. We are a good team, too. We aren't looking for the fame or anything like that. We just want to keep winning and keep playing."
Like he had all game, Morris starting pitcher Jacob Overbeck took care of the Coal City offense in the bottom of the seventh, allowing a two-out double to Keegan Gagliardo before fielding a comebacker off the bat of Jack Bunton to end the game. Overbeck finished by allowing two runs, both earned, on eight hits. striking out four and walking one in leading the Redskins to their first regional title since 2014.
"It's the second time I had pitched against Coal City this year, so I tried to learn from the mistakes I made last time, but not to stray too far from what I normally do. I just pitched my game, hitting my spots and moving the ball around.
"It seems like we are kind of a late in the game team, so I know if I keep us close, we are never out of the game. Even though they tied it on us late, Alex came through with the big hit. I am just proud of the fight this team has."
For Morris coach Todd Kein, there was no one he would rather have on the mound at that moment.
"Jacob Overbeck is something to watch," Kein said. "He may be underestimated or overlooked compared, but he is a special pitcher. For him to be on the mound for this one and to be able to record the last out in a regional championship, I can't think of anyone more deserving.
"We shuffled the batting order around a little bit and moved Alex up to the fifth spot. He had been hitting seventh, but he came up and came through at the right time for us today. He's gotten quite a few big hits for us this year, but that one today goes right to the top. We have evolved into a team that gets timely hits and at-bats, and that's been nice to see."
Morris (25-8) took a 1-0 lead in the top of the first as Cole Laurie led off with a single and went to third on a single by Matt Lopez, who took second on the throw to third. Overbeck then hit a slow roller to third and Laurie slid in safely under the tag at home to score the game's first run.
Coal City tied it in the bottom of the second. With one out, Best was hit by a pitch, went to second on a grounder by Mickey McDowell and scored on a single by Abram Wills. Morris went ahead, 2-1 in the top of the fifth. Lopez reached on an error to lead off the inning, then went to second on a bunt single by Overbeck. A grounder to first by Reddinger forced Overbeck at second, but Lopez went to third and then scored on a sacrifice fly to center by Cameron. Best tied it in the bottom of the sixth with a two-out solo homer to left.
"Morris played perfect," Coal City coach Greg Wills said. "They caught every ball and Overbeck threw very well. They gave us no extra chances, and you have to tip your hats to them. We didn't play bad, but they took advantage of the few mistakes we did make.
"You can't ask for more than what we got from Keegan Gagliarto. He gave up one earned run in a regional title game. We just didn't get it done offensiely, and a lot of that had to do with Overbeck."