'Just wasn't our day': SHG drops to Elmhurst Timothy Christian in Class 2A state semifinal

SHG's comeback thwarted by Timothy Christian's answer in the 2A state semifinals

Bill Welt
State Journal-Register

NORMAL — Sacred Heart-Griffin High School bench players Jaydon Davis and Mitch Dye powered a dramatic comeback in the bottom of the sixth inning.

That just so happened to be overshadowed by Elmhurst Timothy Christian's wild rally of its own in the spitting rain.

The No. 2-seeded Trojans overcame a 6-3 deficit in the top of the seventh after ceding four runs to No. 1 SHG the previous frame to defeat the Cyclones 7-6 in the Class 2A baseball state semifinals at Illinois State University's Duffy Bass Field on Friday.

SHG (33-3) ultimately settled for fourth place following a 7-5 loss to fellow Central State Eight Conference rival Normal University in the third-place game. The Pioneers (32-4) lost to Freeburg 5-3 in the semifinals. Timothy Christian (21-8) and Freeburg (36-3) played for the state title on Friday night.

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"I'm incredibly proud of everything that they have done," SHG coach Nick Naumovich said. "Today's not the day to look back on that, but when we can look back, these guys had a tremendous year and made the school proud. I couldn't ask for a better set of kids."

The Cyclones trailed 3-2 going into the bottom of the sixth. Designated hitter Paul Gilmore walked before Davis replaced Brannan Kraft in the hitting order. He blasted a game-tying RBI double to the center field wall.

"I just got a fastball on an 0-2 count and just ripped one back up the middle, one-hopped the wall," Davis said. "It was pretty exhilarating. It was a pretty pumped-up feeling.

"I felt I was locked in. I was a little early on the curveball and then threw the fastball, I just leaned back on it and I was able to rip it."

Sacred Heart-Griffin's Isaiah Thompson (1) reacts after the Cyclones are defeated by Elmhurst Timothy Christian 7-6 in the Class 2A State Tournament semifinals at Duffy Bass Field in Normal on Friday. [Justin L. Fowler/The State Journal-Register]

Dye also replaced a hitter and catapulted the Cyclones ahead 4-3 with a triple to the right field fence. No. 9 hitter Louie Bartletti duplicated another triple to right field and leadoff batter Isaiah Thompson drove in the last run with a sacrifice fly.

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"Jaydon's tremendous and Mitch had a big hit in that spot," Naumovich said. "But yeah, just wasn't our day."

Timothy Christian's Ethan Munk started the ensuing rally with a walk, and Casey Folkerts loaded the bases with a hot grounder that caromed off the third baseman. No. 3 hitter Fletcher Roemmich walked for an RBI and cleanup man C.J. James smacked another hard grounder that deflected off the shortstop and carried into the outfield to tie 6-6. Evan Montella then tallied the go-ahead RBI with a blooper to shallow left field. 

Sacred Heart-Griffin's Sam Antonacci (5) tries to dry his hand as he pitches in the rain in the seventh inning against Elmhurst Timothy Christian during the Class 2A State Tournament semifinals Friday at Duffy Bass Field in Normal. [Justin L. Fowler/The State Journal-Register]

SHG closer Sam Antonacci suffered the loss with four hits, two walks and four runs allowed. SHG's defense came up with some gems earlier in the game and perhaps just needed one more to avoid the loss.

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Thompson hung onto his catch in center field after colliding with right fielder R.J. Jimerson in the fourth, Antonacci threw out a hitter with a sliding grab at shortstop in the fifth and second baseman Ryan Soehnlin made a leaping catch in the sixth. 

"It's heartbreaking," Naumovich said. "These guys worked their tails off for a long time. We had our best guys in there and I wouldn't have changed who I had thrown. I would've thrown him 100 out of a 100 times. 

"Just wasn't our day."

Sacred Heart-Griffin's Paul Gilmore (8) helps pick up Sacred Heart-Griffin's Nick Crowe (17) after the Cyclones were defeated 7-6 by Elmhurst Timothy Christian during the Class 2A State Tournament semifinals Friday at Duffy Bass Field in Normal. [Justin L. Fowler/The State Journal-Register]

Davis, Dye and Bartletti each had a hit, RBI and run for the Cyclones. Antonacci and Thompson both had one hit.

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Timothy Christian starting pitcher Donald Tober threw a complete game and capped off the win with a lineout to the second baseman. He yielded five hits, five walks and six runs (five earned) with two strikeouts. 

Kraft started for SHG, which made its first state appearance since 2014, and went 4 2/3 innings. He gave up four hits, one walk and three runs (two earned) with four Ks.

Contact Bill Welt: bill.welt@sj-r.com, Twitter.com/BillWelt.