Here, with information compiled by the IHSA and The Times Sports staff, is a look at the four teams – each making its first state finals appearance – competing Thursday in the Class 1A Baseball State Finals and how they earned their trips to Duffy Bass Field at Illinois State University in Normal:
Conference: Little Ten
Current win streak: 15 games
Head coach: Josh Cooper (1st season, 26-1)
Previous state appearance(s): This is Newark’s first appearance.
Road to Normal:
Beat Earlville, 14-0, and Serena, 16-1, in 1A Regional
Beat Winnetka North Shore Country Day, 12-2, and Grant Park, 9-3, in 1A Sectional
Beat Sterling Newman 5-3 (9 innings) in 1A Supersectional
Quick stats: The Norsemen have scored 9.2 runs a game this season and plated double-digit tallies in 12 contests. On defense, Newark has allowed only 69 opponents to cross the plate and have given up five or fewer runs 21 times.
In a sentence: Newark baseball captured its first regional title since 2006, as well as the program’s initial sectional and supersectional championships this season, and will be looking for more in Normal. The Norsemen have displayed a solid mix of good hitting, pitching and fielding all year and hope this is the start of something special as a program.
FATHER McGIVNEY CATHOLIC GRIFFINS
Conference: Prairie State
Current win streak: 12 games
Head coach: Chris Erwin (1st season, 30-6; 3rd overall 64-42)
Previous state appearance(s): This is Father McGivney Catholic’s first appearance.
Beat Mulberry Grove, 13-1, and Metro-East Lutheran, 7-2, in 1A Regional
Beat Carrollton, 9-3, and Greenfield Co-op, 13-0, in 1A Sectional
Beat Camp Point Central, 4-0, in 1A Supersectional
Quick stats: At the plate, the Griffins are averaging 10.1 runs a game and have a .373 team batting average; 121 of their 363 hits are for extra bases. The pitching staff has combined for a 3.00 ERA and is averaging 1.27 strikeouts an inning.
In a sentence: In only the Griffins’ second baseball season as a program, seniors Matthew Gierer, Luke Deakos, Austin Callovini, Drew Sowerwine, Christian Logue and Jackson Podshadley all were members of the first team for Father McGivney, which went 4-15 in 2019.
FARINA SOUTH CENTRAL COUGARS
Conference: National Trail
Current win streak: 15 games
Head coach: Curt Jones (24th season, 436-220-2)
Previous state appearance(s): This is Farina South Central’s first appearance.
Beat Bridgeport Red Hill, 5-4, and Allamont, 10-5, in 1A Regional
Beat Bethany Okaw Valley, 7-2, and Louisville North Clay Co-op, 1-0, in 1A Sectional
Beat Goreville, 15-14, (9 innings) in 1A Supersectional
Quick stats: At the plate, the Cougars are averaging 8.4 runs a game and have a .319 team batting average; 70 of their 227 hits are for extra bases. The pitching staff has combined for a 1.87 ERA and is averaging 1.36 strikeouts an inning.
In a sentence: Since taking over the program in 1997, Jones has led the Cougars to 15 regional and three sectional championships and a dozen 20-plus win campaigns. Despite allowing 14 runs in the supersectional, this year’s club has allowed five or fewer runs in 25 of its 27 contests
MT. PULASKI HILLTOPPERS
Current win streak: 5 games
Head coach: Joel Washko (7th season, 93-84)
Previous state appearance(s): This is Mt. Pulaski’s first appearance.
Beat Argenta-Oreana, 15-0, and Decatur St. Teresa, 3-1, in 1A Regional
Beat Champaign St. Thomas More, 9-5, and Milford, 6-4, in 1A Sectional
Beat Kewanee Wethersfield Co-op, 11-1, in 1A Supersectional
Quick stats: At the plate, the Hilltoppers are averaging 10.7 runs a game and have a .375 team batting average; 61 of their 203 hits are for extra bases. The pitching staff has combined for a 1.37 ERA and is averaging 1.49 strikeouts an inning.
In a sentence: A dominant team at the dish and on the mound, Mt. Pulaski has scored double-digit runs in 13 of its 22 games and allowed four runs or more tallies in just three games while also posting seven shutouts.
I worked for 25 years as a CNC operator and in 2005 answered an ad in The Times for a freelance sports writer position. I became a full-time sports writer/columnist for The Times in February of 2016.
I enjoy researching high school athletics history, and in my spare time like to do the same, but also play video games and watch Twitch.