1A baseball: St. Bede goes down battling against Annawan-Wethersfield

Titans take 2-0 lead in first inning on way to 4-2 win for sectional championship

St. Bede players embrace with the emotions of a season-ending 4-2 loss to Annawan-Wethersfield in Saturday's 1A Bloomington Sectional championship game. The Bruins bow out with a 21-15-1 record.

BLOOMINGTON – It was an uphill battle right from the start for the St. Bede Bruins in Saturday’s Class 1A Bloomington Sectional final.

Annawan-Wethersfield took a two-run lead in the bottom of the first inning on pitcher Colin Hornback’s two-run hit. The Bruins tied the game in the third inning only to have the Titans regain the lead with a run in the home half. They never gave it up on the way to a 4-2 championship game victory.

“We played catch-up all day and we didn’t go down without a fight, and that’s a credit to our kids,” St. Bede coach Bill Booker said. “We’ve got kids who have played hard all year. The last couple weeks you’ve seen them catch on even more and they got ready at tournament time.

“It’s nice to be one of the last teams to be playing, but it hurts a lot more when you get beat.”

It was an especially tough loss for seniors like Ryan Slingsby and Seth Ferrari, who played their last game for the Bruins.

“We went down battling. It’s hard to bite. We got to help the young guys get better for next year. Me, I’m done. It just hurts,” Slingsby said.

“It’s really tough. Coming out of that close of a game, that close of a play (the last out). This one is going to sting for awhile, for sure,” Ferrari said. “We definitely left it all on the field. We had a rough first inning, from there we battled it out. Just tried to claw our way back in. Had our chances. Couldn’t come away with it.”

The game ended when Luke Tunnell’s sinking line drive was caught by Hornback, then playing left field, with a runner on base, leaving many St. Bede fans and team members insisting the ball hit the ground.

The Titans (20-17-1) returned to Horenberger Field for Monday’s supersectional against Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley and lost 3-0.

“We’ve worked all season to get to this point. It’s an amazing feeling. It means the world. It really means everything,” Hornback said after Saturday’s win.

This is the Titans’ second sectional championship in four years, last winning in 2021.

The Titans opened the game with three straight hits by Maddox Heitzler, Kellan Keane and Zeb Rashid before Hornback lashed a two-run single to left to put the Titans up 2-0.

Hornback said it’s a good feeling to get an early lead, especially when he was able to help his own cause.

“You feel safe. It gives me security more than anything. Scoring runs,” he said. “(Getting a hit) just makes me feel good and everything go well. Keep going.”

Ferrari kept the damage from being worse, retiring the next three batters, including two strikeouts.

“Definitely could have been a lot worse. I was able to get my curveball working. I stuck with it,” he said. “If we don’t give up those two runs in the first, it’s a whole different ball game right there.”

The Bruins (21-15-1) tied the game at 2-2 in the top of the third inning on Carson Riva’s two-out, two-run single to center field.

Slingsby drew a leadoff walk and the Titans elected to give cleanup man Tunnell a free pass. Pinch hitter Evan Entrican drew a walk to load the base ahead of Riva’s hit, bringing home Slingsby followed by Tunnell, who slid home just ahead of the tag.

The Titans chased Ferrari in the third inning with a leadoff single by Hornback and a double by Nic Thurston. Mineral’s Brody Childs greeted St. Bede reliever Alan Spencer with an RBI groundout to second to give the Titans a 3-2 lead.

A-W added an insurance run in the sixth to go up 4-2. Childs led off with a single to center and Caleb McGill sacrificed him to second, but reached safely when he beat the throw to first. DeClercq plated Childs with a RBI groundout to second.

“They hit their way back into everything. Even when we played them a year ago,” Booker said. “We knew we had to play defense. Fill the strike zone, throw off-speed and try to keep them off balance. And they just take good hacks. They’re deserving of this.

“Give Annawan-Wethersfield all the credit. Their pitcher was good. Our kids battled. Their kids battled. It was a heck of a baseball game.”

And it was a heck of a season for the Bruins.

“We had a great season from the start. A lot of guys came a long way. The young guys stepped up in spots. I couldn’t have asked for much more,” Ferrari said.

“We all came together. I felt like any time somebody did something good, everybody fed off of them,” Slingsby said. “So that’s why when we’re getting big wins in close games, because every time somebody put the ball in play or made a big out, the rest of the team was right there.”

Slingsby said the younger Bruins learned valuable lessons over the course of the season.

“You’ve got to keep working hard. There’s ups and downs. Even in the downs, you’ve got to work hard to get back up,” he said.

Gus Burr, who had a key three-run triple int the Bruins’ semifinal win over Heyworth, and Nathan Husser led the Bruins with two hits each.

Keane, Rashid and Hornback each had two hits for the Titans.

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