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.
"How odd is that?" Staab said. "There's always excitement when you get these two schools together; now it's in the postseason. It should be a fun one."
If fun means unpredictable, it's likely what you'll see when the rivals meet. Thursday's matchup will be the third between the second-seeded Chargers and third-seeded Maroons in nine days.
Central won the opener 14-6 in a game where Centennial made eight errors. The Chargers bounced back behind a strong pitching performance from Josh Manolakes to win 5-1 two days later.
"They'll put the ball in play and bunt, try to move runners," Centennial coach Rich Hyde said of the Maroons. "We're just going to try to match up with them. They've got a very good hitter in Kurtis Brown. We've got to try to not let him hurt us."
Both coaches said emotions played a part in each of the first two meetings. Both games were Senior Days at the respective schools.
"They were two competitive games. The first night it was one of those things where things went our way more than it did for them. That's not indicative of the type of team they are, but we took advantage of them," Staab said. "It's a game we'll both be up for, and as a coach you try to get your kids to dial it down a little bit, but that's easier said than done."