TUSCOLA, Ill. — Only one out away from winning the Section 1 baseball championship, but with the tying run on base for Champaign, Mt. Carmel 11-year-old manager Craig Hablig suddenly had to make a pitching change.
Starter Bret Doan had just used up his maximum allotment of 85 pitches and had to come out. Halbig brought in Adam Stoneberger, who after allowing one hit, retired the final batter on a ground ball to shortstop Trevor Peterson to clinch a 6-5 victory and a berth in the state tournament in Chicago.
“You had that feeling that they came to win,” Halbig said of his team, the first from Mt. Carmel to advance to the state tourney since the 12-year-old team of 2006. “They were pretty loose, but were focused.”
Mt. Carmel led 6-1 heading into the sixth inning but hung on as Champaign scored for four runs.
Doan got the Aces off to a good start in the top of the first with a two-run homer, scoring Clayton Halbig ahead of him. The 11s scored two more in the fourth, then two more in the fifth.
Doan led the way with two hits and two runs batted in. Halbig, Chris Whetstone, Drew Gill and Cade Newkirk added RBIs to the total.
“We manufactured a lot of runs,” manager Halbig said. “Like hitting the ball to the right side with a runner at third to get them home, or advancing runners. That’s what enabled us to score the runs we scored other than Bret’s home run.”
Champaign scored one in the fourth before the near-miss uprising in the sixth.
The state tournament, a five-team double-elimination affair, opens with Mt. Carmel facing off against the winner from Section 5 at 6 p.m. If they win, the 11s play again on Saturday against the Section 3 champion at 3 p.m. If they lose, it’s a day off Saturday before playing an elimination game on Sunday at 3 p.m.
• Mt. Carmel players were busy Wednesday soliciting financial help from businesses, to help offset the cost of the trip. The team could spend almost a week in Chicago. If you would like to donate, contact Little League president Dave Stoneberger at 618-263-8291.
This afternoon from 3:30-5:30 p.m. the team will man a lemonade stand outside Borowiak’s IGA with all proceeds going to state tourney expenses.