TUSCOLA, Ill. — In their travels through post-season tournaments at the district and sectional level, the Mt. Carmel 11-year-old baseball team has shown it prefers the quickest route over the scenic route. Instead of winding their way through the loser’s bracket and extra-inning games, the 11s have kept to the minimum in terms of games and innings.
After capturing the district title in three straight wins, Mt. Carmel rolled into the Section 1 tournament in Tuscola and took two more wins over the weekend. Once again, the 11s are in the driver’s seat, needing only one more win to win another crown and advance to the state tournament.
Mt. Carmel edged Champaign-East, 7-6, on Friday night, then routed Pittsfield, 20-3 on Saturday to improve to 5-0 in the post-season.
“Everybody was in on the wins,” said manager Craig Halbig. “They’re starting to get a feel for it.”
Sunday, Champaign-East eliminated Pittsfield, 11-1, gaining another shot against Mt. Carmel at 6:30 p.m. tonight. A Champaign win would force a winner-take-all game on Tuesday at 6:30 p.m.
On Friday, Mt. Carmel pitchers nursed a narrow lead through the final three innings, holding Champaign-East to one run over the last three innings. Reliever Clayton Halbig had a nervous seventh before securing the win. Champaign had two runners on, but leftfielder Connor Lane caught a flyball to end the game.
Bret Doan was 3-for-4 at the plate. Halbig and Drew Gill each had two hits.
On Saturday, Mt. Carmel cruised to an easy win. “We used only two pitchers,” said Halbig of Adam Stoneberger and Cade Newkirk, the tandem who held Pittsfield to only three hits.
Doan had three hits in the game. Halbig, Chevvy Wood and Lucas Hall each had two hits.
Mt. Carmel will have a lot of arms available tonight in the finals. “Both Gill and Doan can go on Monday,” Halbig said. Stoneberger threw 51 pitches against Pittsfield, which means he would be available on Tuesday if necessary.
Mt. Carmel last won a sectional championship in 2006 when the 12-year-old all-stars advanced to state.
There was one surprise waiting for Mt. Carmel when the squad arrived at Erwin Park on Friday. The pitching circle was without a mound. “Once the pitchers got adjusted, they did OK,” said Halbig. “It was like throwing in your backyard.”