Illinios Recap of Labor Day Challenge



By Ryan Quigley
Illinois Scouting Director

Two Illinois teams had successful weekends at the second annual Prep Baseball Report Labor Day Challenge.  Although the Indiana Outlaws won the championship narrowly over Southern Illinois, due to a head-to-head tie-breaker, Southern Illinois impressed finishing 3-1, while Top Tier finished 2-1-1.

Top Tier led off the Challenge on Saturday morning at Curtis Granderson Stadium on the campus of UIC with an 8-2 victory over the GRB Rays, led by starting pitcher Hank Christie’s (Oak Park-River Forest) four scoreless innings with five strikeouts.  Austin Blazevic (Plainfield Central) had a two-run single in the first to start off the scoring.  Mitch Owens (Moline) started off his strong weekend at the plate going 2-for-2 with two singles, two walks, and two runs scored.

In game two of the event, Top Tier squandered a five run lead as the Rawlings Hitters rallied with two outs and no one on in the top of the seventh to take an 8-6 lead.  That set the stage for Owens’ dramatic two run homer off the foul pole in left to tie the game at 8.  Extra innings were not played due to pitching limitations during the tournament.

Southern Illinois, composed of several players from the Southwestern Conference outside of the St. Louis area and put together by O’Fallon head baseball coach Jason Portz just for this weekend to showcase the talent from downstate, impressed all weekend and won their first game 4-2 over the GRB Rays.  Brady Schanuel (Belleville East) and Southern Illinois commit Bradley Harrison (O’Fallon) combined to hold GRB to just five hits.  Edwardsville middle infielders Jordan Hovey and Collin Clayton impressed all weekend defensively and at the plate.  Hovey had an RBI-single, and Clayton doubled down the right field line, and also is a top-level defensive center fielder.

Southern Illinois dropped a dog fight to the Indiana Outlaws in the Saturday nightcap 13-8.  Dylan McEwen (Collinsville) went 2-for-4 with two doubles, and also impressed throwing out a runner in a later game with a 2.12 in game pop-time. 

Games on Sunday moved to Chicago State’s brand new all-turf facility.  There’s an old adage in baseball that you are only as good as your next day’s starting pitcher, and Southern Illinois had two of the top arms at the Labor Day Challenge still left to throw in Alton’s Bryan Hudson and O’Fallon’s Christopher Holba.  Hudson led Southern Illinois to a 2-0 victory over the Rawlings Hitters.  The 6-foot-7 lefty drew significant college and professional attention, and did not disappoint, spinning four innings of one-hit baseball with six strikeouts and one walk.  His fastball sat 85-87 mph throughout, and touched 89 multiple times early.  He paired it with a sharp breaking mid-70’s slider, that was tough on Rawlings’ left-handed hitters.  Belleville West’s Jacob Wilson finished 2-for-2 at the plate with two singles and an RBI.  OFallon teammates Grant Robison and Bradley Harrison finished off the game on the mound combining for three scoreless innings. 

Top Tier started off Sunday handing the Outlaws their only loss of the Challenge erupting for four runs in the sixth inning to turn a 2-1 deficit into a 5-2 victory.  Trailing 2-1 in the sixth, Jordan Libman (Glenbrook South HS, IL, 2016) led off the inning with a single and proceeded to steal second base. After an out, 1B Bobby Seymour (Mount Carmel HS, IL, 2017) drove home Libman with a single through the left side, tying the game. After a couple walks, an error, OF Reese Dolan (Mundelein HS, 2016) busted the game open with a two-run, opposite field single to stake Top Tier to a 5-2 advantage.  Left-hander Cole Miller (York) worked five innings of four-hit, two run baseball.

Fittingly, the tenth and final game of the Labor Day Challenge squared off our two Illinois squads and Southern Illinois came away with a 9-3 victory over Top Tier.  O’Fallon’s Christopher Holba dominated over his first three innings with a devastating fastball/slider combination.  He ran into command issues in the fourth, but still finished with six strikeouts and two runs allowed.  Holba’s fastball touched 89 mph multiple times in the first, when he stranded a runner on third with back-to-back strikeouts. 

For Top Tier, Mitch Owens impressed on the mound pitching into the fifth, but was not helped by multiple fielding errors that eventually chased him from the game.  He allowed one earned run in 4.2 innings.  Bobby Seymour (Mt. Carmel) added an RBI-double down the left field line in the fifth.

Edwardsville teammates Clayton and Hovey teamed up once again offensively, as Clayton finished 2-for-3 with two singles, a walk, and two-RBI’s.  Hovey was 2-for-3 with two singles and two runs scored to lead Southern Illinois.  Belleville Alhoff’s Austin Keen earned the win throwing three innings of one run, two-hit baseball.   

All of the games from the Labor Day Challenge can be watched at the High School Cube through the Prep Baseball Report Labor Day Challenge page.

Make sure to check out all of our coverage from the Labor Day Challenge.

Day 1 Scouting Blog

Day 2 Scouting Blog

All-Tournament Team


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