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CHAMPAIGN — When the baseball teams from Centennial and Champaign Central take the field for Thursday night's Class 3A regional semifinal at McKinley Field, it will mark the first time in Central coach John Staab's 11 years at the helm that the rivals have squared off in the postseason.
MAROA — Baseball can be a fickle beast at times. Monticello learned that the hard way Saturday in the final inning of the Maroa-Forsyth regional championship.
The top-seeded Sages had their title hopes dashed by second-seeded Olympia, which scored three runs in the top of the seventh to erase a 1-0 deficit and close out a 3-1 victory.
Class 1A regionals
Heritage 3, Schlarman 1. HILARY SMITH threw a four-hitter, striking out 10 to lift the host Hawks to their first regional title in school history.
TOLONO — It is hard to beat a team three times in one season, even harder to do it in just two weeks.
St. Joseph-Ogden got the best of St. Thomas More twice last week to claim a share of the Sangamon Valley Conference championship. With the regional championship on the line, however, the fourth-seeded Sabers beat the second-seed Spartans 6-2 thanks to some gutsy play.
TOLONO — Six times this season, Hunter Hart has been at the plate in the seventh inning with a chance to win the game.
Six times, the St. Joseph-Ogden sophomore has come up short. But the seventh time erased all memory of those six previous at-bats.
RANTOUL — Luke Pannbacker stood a good 10 feet behind the mound.
Walking forward, he adjusted his belt with his right hand, took a deep breath and found his spot on the pitching rubber.
The Rantoul junior right-hander needed one more strike to put away Tri-Valley and send the Eagles to their second straight regional championship game.
Pannbacker did just that.
MAROA — Monticello's Jacob Williams made his pitching coach look like a genius in the Sages' 3-1 regional semifinal victory against Maroa-Forsyth on Wednesday.
Williams struck out 20 — including four in one inning, courtesy a passed ball Strike 3 — in a performance Monticello assistant coach Steve Hopper admitted he had never witnessed.
TOLONO — In a regional loaded with pitching talent, the first marquee matchup did not disappoint.
St. Thomas More pitcher Austin Tabeling mowed down top-seeded Unity's lineup in a complete-game one-hit shutout. The Sabers moved on to Saturday's regional championship with a 4-0 win Wednesday.
Tabeling's opposite number, Austin Fender, also threw a solid game, allowing three hits.
In Class 1A regionals
Ridgeview 19, Fisher 8. Marissa Freidmansky went 3 for 5 (double) with five RBI to power the third-seeded Mustangs, who got two hits, two runs and two RBI from Danielle Powell. Taylor Hastings added three hits (two doubles) and an RBI in the semifinal victory at Gibson City.