Prep Baseball Report

4A State Championship: Drama-packed title win for Edwardsville; St. Rita walks it off for third-place finish

Andy Sroka
Staff Writer

JOLIET, Ill. – Edwardsville head coach Tim Funkhouser, the man who’s sat at the head of the dugout for the past 21 seasons, earns his first-ever title in a blockbuster ending that was storybook for the Tigers. Funkhouser’s career win No. 700 is also the one that allows him to lift his first state title, and Edwardsville’s first since the year before he took over the position, back in 1998. Even more, Funkhouser won a Tigers title as a player, under his father and head coach, and was able to earn his first title as a head coach with his own son in the dugout this evening.

The game required extra innings, after a relentless St. Charles North team clawed their way back even in the bottom of the seventh, requiring a late push over Edwardsville starter Matthew Boyer, who was excellent throughout.

For the North Stars, the formula to victory couldn’t have been more perfect. The game played it virtually exactly how they would have drawn it up. They took it to the Tigers with a three-headed attack from the mound, as planned, and limited a potent Edwardsville offense to just three hits total.

After a quiet first frame, Boyer was forced to face the game’s first real jam in the bottom of the second. A light rain slickened the field and costed the Tigers a couple of errors, putting a pair on base with one down. But Boyer, as he would all game, buckled down and punched out the next two batters to shut the threat down.

In the fourth, a Drake Westcott walk, followed by a Joe Copeland single, sparked a rally. Funkhouser utilized a double steal in this spot, and it caused a little chaos for a typically even-keeled and fundamental North Stars defense. An errant throw into left on the play scored Westcott and wild pitch plated Copeland to give the Tigers a 2-0 lead, on just one hit.

St. Charles North responded in the fifth after Kyler Brown lined a single into shallow left field and Mike Gattuso battled for a walk to put the tying run on with one out. Last night’s hero, senior Egon Hein, roped a single to the outfield that scored his team’s first run. Boyer did well to keep the score there, 2-1, but it didn’t feel like it was going to be North’s last chance, either.

The North Stars were set down in order in the sixth and it gave Funkhouser the confidence to send his starter back out there for the seventh. Boyer walked Alex Najera on four pitches and another Brown single ignited the North dugout and supporting fans, forcing Funkhouser to call on one of his most reliable arms, Collin Salter, to finish the rest. With a little adrenaline behind him, Salter hit the first batter he faced to load the bases with nobody out, setting Hein up for even more heroics.

Hein flipped a ball softly up the middle, allowing for Edwardsville to turn two rather routinely, but North didn’t care. The game was tied, finally. Salter made sure the Tigers were going to get another chance to bat in the top of the eighth earning a strikeout to end the frame, and the 4A final was directed to extras.

By this time, North was relying on their high-leverage ace Nick DeMarco to get them back to the plate. In the top of the eighth, with one down, pinch-hitter Jacob Kitchen popped a high fly ball that landed directly in the middle of the converging center fielder, right fielder, and second baseman. It was a ball that North will say should have been caught, and it sparked the rally that allowed the Tigers to pull ahead for good.

A clutch DeMarco strikeout to lead-off man Hayden Moore made it feel like DeMarco was going to bail his team out trouble, but senior Blake Burris laid down a perfect bunt halfway up the third base line. The throw to first collided with Burris and sent pinch-runner Aaron Young scrambling home. The play at the plate was as close as could be, and the umpire saw Young’s hand scrape the plate before he was tagged, granting Edwardsville the 3-2 lead.

Salter needed three more outs to clinch the win, and North grinded in their at-bats, but were still set down in order, 1-2-3, to hand Funkhouser and the Edwardsville program the 4A championship.

For North, the loss is still a step closer to their program’s first-ever state title – their second-place finish is the best in its history. With a sturdy group of sophomores in place, and an experienced coaching staff at the helm, the North Stars should be right back in the mix in 2020.

The Tigers and their tremendous class of 2019, however, get to celebrate the biggest win of Illinois’ high school season – wrapping up their prep careers in the most satisfying way possible.


St. Rita - 3
Hampshire - 2

In the bottom of the 7th with one out and Chris McDevitt standing on first, Jalen Greer (Missouri commit) rolls a ground ball to third. As the throw reaches first resulting in a put out, McDevitt takes an aggressive turn around second heading for third. An errant throw by the first baseman across the diamond sends the ball up the left field fence and McDevitt races home scoring the game winning run.

Luke Carroll earned the win for the Mustangs in relief of starter Vic Aguilar. Justin Valdez threw three scoreless innings for St. Rita allowing only one hit. McDevitt also hit a double and drove in a run for the Mustangs earlier in the game. Luke Napleton and Brendan Carrane (St. Louis commit) had two hits apiece. 

Matt Jachec (Indiana State commit) took the loss for the Whip-Purs with a line: 6.2IP, 8H, 3R, 2ER, 2BB, 6K. Caden Pyszka lead the Hampshire offense with two hits, a triple and two RBI. 

St. Rita (35-7) takes third place in coach John Nee’s first trip to the state finals, the 6th in Mustang history. Hampshire (22-16) claims fourth in coach Frank Simoncellis' second year at the helm and the teams first ever trip to state.