Bulldogs Advance To State Championship

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Published on July 19 2012 5:26 pm
Last Updated on July 19 2012 5:26 pm
Written by Millie Lange

Written by Dustin White, Sports Announcer, Premier Broadcasting

St. Anthony High School's first trip to state in 20 years has resulted in a championship game berth! The Bulldogs will play for the IHSA Class 1A title thanks to a 6-2 Friday morning semifinal victory over Alton Marquette at O'Brien Field in Peoria.

Things didn't look good early for the Bulldogs and junior starter Ben Hecht, who struggled with his command and his footing on the mound in the top of the first inning. St. Anthony fell behind 2-0 before it ever had a chance to swing the bats, but was able to quickly answer with four runs of its own in the home half of the frame. While Hecht settled down and shut out the Explorers the rest of the way, the Bulldogs tacked on insurance runs in the fourth and sixth to guarantee improvement of the school's best-ever finish in state play — a 1992 third-place run well before any member of the current roster was born.

Hecht improved his pitching record to 11-0 on the year despite his first inning troubles; he walked leadoff man Geoffrey Ferguson and proceeded to hit Nick Schranck with a 1-1 pitch. After an errant pickoff throw moved both runners up a base, he caught Derrik Starrett looking for the first out and intentionally walked cleanup hitter Johnny Wilson to load the bases.

Brogan Fischer took advantage of the opportunity with a two-run single just inside the first base bag, but a failed squeeze attempt and strikeout sandwiching another hit batter helped Hecht avoid total disaster. The failed squeeze was one of three outs the Explorers gave back on the basepaths. Hecht picked Danny Holtz off first base after checking on him multiple times prior, while St. Anthony catcher Eli Dasenbrock was able to catch Starrett stealing second after a leadoff single in the third.

As it turned out, that opening inning was the low point of the day for the Bulldogs. Four straight singles from Jared Having, Michael Kabbes, Hecht and Reed Willenborg allowed St. Anthony to quickly tie the contest. After Austin Bushur was hit in the back of the head with a pitch to load the bases, Jacob Lorenz sent a soft chopper to shortstop. The Explorers attempted to start a double play and got the force at second, but a poor throw to first meant the play netted a pair of runs and 4-2 advantage.

At that point, Marquette pulled starting pitcher Tommy Anderson in favor of Starrett, who ended up tossing 2 2/3 innings before giving way to Carter Hayden the rest of the way.

In the fourth, Hecht reached on an error and advanced to third on a stolen base and wild pitch. With Austin Bushur having drawn and walk and moving to second, Hecht took off on an attempt to steal home. Caught completely off-guard, Hayden balked and allowed Hecht to score standing up. Hecht had such an enormous jump that he would've scored regardless — just one of St. Anthony's many successful Friday endeavors in starting a baserunner.

The sixth and final Bulldog run was another unearned tally as Having led off with a bouncer to third and found himself standing on second base after another inaccurate throw. Hecht sent him home with a one-out single between short and third and then struck out the side in the top of the seventh to end the proceedings with a flourish. Hecht fanned 11 in a five-hitter, recording seven of the last nine outs on strikes.

Hecht was 2-for-3 with a pair of RBI singles and two runs scored, while Having was 2-for-4 with two more runs. Kabbes was 1-for-4 with a run and Willenborg was 1-for-4 with a run and an RBI. Bushur had the other St. Anthony hit in a 1-for-2 day, reaching base three times as he walked and was hit by a pitch. Lorenz also had an RBI.

Marquette fell to 27-9 with the loss and will face Lena-Winslow (27-12-1), who lost to Tuscola 10-2 in the following semifinal matchup. They'll play Saturday at 9 a.m. for third place.

Meanwhile, the championship is set for approximately 11 a.m. It'll be a rematch, since Tuscola (24-13) and St. Anthony (30-8-1) squared off in a 4-0 Bulldog victory back on April 7. Willenborg pitched that game and struck out 13 Warrior hitters; the senior will look to be similarly dominant when he gets the ball in the championship. No matter what, St. Anthony has already bested the previous school record of 28 wins in a season and, as mentioned, will bring home the only first- or second-place trophy in program history.