PEORIA — Most of the players comprising the Tuscola baseball roster double as football players. Many of them played in three straight football state championship games.
Jacob Barr is a bit of an outcast, however, in that he doesn't play football.
"I'm not good at it, I don't understand plays and that's the honest truth," said Barr, who put on the pads for his only year on the gridiron in eighth grade. "I've never understood it."
What the senior does understand is baseball. Pitching in particular.
And while those football guys have had plenty of moments to shine, Friday's Class 1A semifinal baseball game against Lena-Winslow was Barr's time to stand out and deliver.
The right-hander pitched a complete-game two-hitter, allowing two unearned runs in leading the Warriors to a 10-2 win against the Panthers at O'Brien Field.
Tuscola (24-13) will play in its first baseball state championship game today against Effingham St. Anthony.
"It boils down to Jake threw a great ballgame today," Tuscola coach Duff Hoel said. "You hold a good-hitting team like Lena with one hit going into the last inning, you're going to give yourself an opportunity to win a lot of times."
What was odd about Barr's performance Friday is he dominated without retiring a single hitter on strikes. This against a Lena-Winslow team that was averaging eight runs per game in the postseason and featured Cole Logemann (.496 with six home runs and 61 RBI).
"I had a lot of nerves coming into the game. I looked at their chart and I just saw unbelievable batting stats," Barr said. "If you would have told me yesterday that they would have got two hits off me, I wouldn't have believed it."
Barr did walk five hitters but hit his spots to prevent the Panthers (27-12-1) from getting into a groove. Barr retired the leadoff hitter in all seven innings.
"His pitching was deceiving, I don't know what it was," Lena-Winslow's Evan Heer said. "He painted the corners and it was tough to get around on him. He kept us on our heels the whole time. I think we were worried about getting hits for ourselves and not fluster him at all and that kind of back-fired on us a little bit."
Tuscola scored four times in each of the first two innings to put the game out of reach.
With the bases loaded in the first inning, Tuscola leadoff hitter Dan Yoakum stole home for the first run.
"Coach just said 'The second he starts winding up, you just go' and I did. That's always our game plan," Yoakum said.
Said Hoel: "It was a gamble worth taking at the time and we rolled the dice and we won."
Nolan Walsh led the Tuscola attack with two hits, two runs and two RBI. Freshman Tommy Watson also drove in a pair of runs, and center fielder Philip Meyer had two hits and an RBI. Dillon Hoel drove in a run and scored three times, and T.J. Onstott scored twice and had an RBI.
"Our bats did what they were supposed to do today. We hit the ball well, not stellar, but we hit the ball well," Duff Hoel said. "We posted 10 runs in the state semifinal game and you're going to win a lot of times whenever you can pull something like that off."