Washington rallies past rival Morton to win Class 3A baseball sectional

John Komosa
Peoria Journal Star
Washington teammates Easton Harris, left, and Tyler Bishop bump fists during their Class 3A baseball sectional semifinal Wednesday, June 1, 2022 at Brian Wisher Field in Washington.

WASHINGTON — Déjà vu.

The Washington baseball team is headed back to the supersectionals for a second consecutive year with the chance of another state finals appearance.

Washington defeated conference rival Morton 10-5 at Brian Wisher Field in Washington to claim another Class 3A sectional championship. The Panthers (33-5) will face Sycamore (28-6), 6 p.m. Monday in the Geneseo Supersectional.

“Getting back to this point like we were last year is pretty surreal. I’m trying to take it all in right now,” senior shortstop Easton Harris said. “It is hard to beat a team of that caliber three times, that is a great Morton team.

"We had to battle through adversity and our bats came alive with 12 hits. We had a couple different guys with multiple hits, and that’s what makes us a great team.”

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The Potters (30-8) got things started in the top of the third inning when Tate Roley’s RBI double drove in Brandon Seiben from third base. Beau Durbin beat out a wild throw to first base which scored Roley as Morton led 2-0. Thomas Krueger collided with Washington pitcher Gus Lucas down the first base line knocking the ball free as the lead was extended to 3-0.

Washington was quick to respond in the bottom of the third.

Lucas Price grounded out to shortstop Durbin, which scored Kyler Klings to cut the deficit to 3-1. Then, after three strikeouts from Lucas in the top of fourth, the Panthers came alive in the bottom half of the fourth.

Bradley commits Harris and Lucas used their senior leadership to propel Washington. Harris reached base and Lucas delivered a two-run home run to left field tie the game at 3-3. Keegan Isbell then drove in Tyler Bishop giving Washington a 4-3 advantage. Lucas Price’s RBI double extended the lead to 5-3 after four innings.

“We talk about when you get punched in the mouth during a game, how are you going to respond to adversity? I don’t think it was anything new for these guys, they don’t get rattled and our bats started coming around,” Washington coach Kyle Wisher said. “After that home run from Gus, we were a completely different team. These guys have been very consistent over these last two years, and it’s just a testament to this team.”

Washington won the Class 3A Geneseo Supersectional last season and went on to finish fourth at the state finals in Joliet. The Panthers are the ninth consecutive Mid-Illini Conference baseball team to make at least the supersectional level.

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“I don’t know even know how to put this into words, because I have never been in a position like this,” said Price, a junior third baseman. “I went Beverly Manor (middle school) and my team never went that far. I had never been to a regional, sectional or anything like that.

"I feel like when we play in front of these big crowds our nerves start to fade away. Our fire has been fueled and we are ready for the supersectional.”

In the bottom of the fifth, Harris drove home Caleb Wudtke on a double off of Morton pitcher Tanner Spangler, which pushed the Washington lead to 6-3. Bishop ripped a single to right field scoring Harris from second as the Panthers went ahead 7-3. Ethan Hurst hit a solo home run to cut the Morton deficit to 7-4 in the top of sixth.

Washington scored two runs off of Bradley commit Roley in the bottom of the sixth as Jack Limas scored on a wild pitch, and a Bishop RBI single put Washington ahead 9-4. Trey Fabian scored once in the seventh pushing the score to 10-4.

Garret Cox closed the game out in relief for the Panthers with two strikeouts.

“It feels great to be back in this position after being here last season, so we know what it takes to get back to state,” Lucas said. “We are very excited right now; it just feels amazing. We have battled through adversity a lot and we just want to keep it going.”

Lucas went six innings allowing five runs on three hits with 11 strikeouts and four walks. He was 1-for-3 at the plate with two RBIs, while teammates Wudtke (3-for-4), Limas (2-4) and Bishop (2-4) all recorded multiple hits for Washington.

“Going back to Geneseo again is surreal,” Harris said. “A chance to go back to state and be on the mound will definitely be a full-circle thing for me. The crowd will be insane.”

Spangler went four innings allowing seven runs on eight hits with three strikeouts and one walk for Morton. Hurst (2-for-3) was the only Potters player with multiple hits.

“This senior class I have watched grow since little league, and it’s closing the chapter on such a great group," Morton coach Jesse Crawford said. "I love this team; Mac Anderson is one of the best leaders I’ve ever had, and Beau (Durbin) and Thomas (Krueger) setting records.

"I’ll miss all the seniors walking the Morton hallways. Tip off the cap to Washington, and we’ll be rooting Washington on.”

More high school baseball stories from pjstar.com

Easton Harris:How this Washington baseball star grew into an elite talent and a Bradley recruit

'Every kid had a Bradley shirt':BU-bound pitcher part of deep Washington baseball team

'He's just an animal':Dynamic senior shortstop has Morton baseball rolling

John Komosa can be reached at jkomsports@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @Jkom91.