Illinois Lutheran rolls to 1A state championship



By Sean Duncan
Executive Director

PEORIA – Illinois Lutheran’s offense finally matched the team’s lights-out pitching staff.  Together, the synchronized units powered the Chargers to a quick and easy 12-2 six-inning victory over Webber Township in the Class 1A state championship game Saturday at Dozer Park.

After being one-hit in a 1-0 semifinal victory on Friday, the Chargers (27-2) removed any doubts early and often to earn the Crete school’s first state championship in its first appearance.

“We’ve been waiting for our hitting to come around,” said Illinois Lutheran coach Mark Kjenstad. “It was nice to be able to relax a little bit when we scored runs. With that said, we won this tournament because of our pitching.”

Senior right-handed pitcher Sam Geraci single-handedly did Webber (23-8) in. The 5-foot-11, 165-pound Parkland College recruit sparked the offense, going 3-for-4 with four RBI. His two-run double in the second inning got the Chargers going, and his two-run triple in the fifth helped push the game to a mercy-rule finish.

On the mound, Geraci (5-1) pitched five strong innings, yielding three hits, two runs, one earned with three strikeouts and no walks.  He retired the side in order in four of his five innings. Senior right-hander Jared Buzan struck out the side in the sixth to cement the rout.

“Starting at the beginning of the year, we knew we had something special,” said Geraci, who also earned the save in the semifinal game against Argenta-Oreana. “To win it all means a lot. … We were focused and came to play.”

Geraci was far from the only contributor Saturday. Illinois Lutheran pounded out 12 hits in the game. Junior catcher Dylan Gould went 2-for-2 with two walks and two runs scored.  Centerfielder Mack Newson had two hits, including a double, three runs and a RBI, and Evan Henschel finished 2-for-4 with a RBI and run scored.

It didn’t take Illinois Lutheran to pull away from Webber. The Chargers pushed three runs across in the second inning, capped by a two-run double by Geraci to left field. Newson, who walked, also scored on a wild pitch, which became a theme for Webber pitchers.

Illinois Lutheran went back to work in the third inning, scoring four more runs. Senior second baseman Collin Borns ignited the scoring with a leadoff triple, and scored on a wild pitch. Three errors, two walks and another wild pitch that scored Chris Falk, and the Chargers held a commanding 7-0 advantage.

Illinois Lutheran added three more runs in the fifth behind Geraci’s two-run triple and a sacrifice fly by Grant Farmer. Henschel’s run-scoring single in the sixth officially employed the mercy rule.

“I don’t know if there’s a better feeling in the world to hold the state trophy over your head,” said Farmer, a junior who earned the victory in the semifinal.

In the third-place game …

Argenta-Oreana 7, New Athens 1: Junior right-hander Keegan McHood brought a no-hitter into the seventh inning but had to settle for a one-hitter in six strong innings of work. The 6-foot-3, 220-pound Kentucky recruit finished with 11 strikeouts and five walks. After He walked the first batter and yielded his only hit in the seventh, he was removed from the game. McHood sat primarily 85-87 mph with his fastball to go along with a 74-77 mph slider.

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