LeROY — Big game. Big stakes.
No problem for Connor Taylor.
The freshman scattered six hits, made some steady defensive plays around the mound and relied on his defense behind him to lift Salt Fork past Iroquois West 4-0 during the Class 1A LeRoy Sectional title game Saturday.
“He walked a couple early, but he just goes about his business and doesn’t seem to get too shook up,” Salt Fork coach Gary Hangsen said. “He threw as cool as we’ve come to expect out of him. The young ones we have don’t play like they’re young anymore.”
Taylor (7-1) struck out two in delivering the Storm its first sectional title since 2010. The Storm (20-7) will play Galva-Williamsfield in a super-sectional game at noon Monday at Illinois Field in Champaign.
“It’s great,” Hangsen said. “I thought maybe we were a year early without any seniors.”
Salt Fork took a 3-0 lead in the bottom of the third with Noah Darr (two hits) and Ross Learnard (double) each driving in a run.
That was all the offense Taylor needed.
“That gets you jump-started and shakes the nerves off,” Hangsen said. “We strung some hits together and that got us off to a real good start.”
Salt Fork turned two double plays to help Taylor out, with Cole Taylor flashing leather at shortstop.
“That was just a fundamentally sound team that made some huge plays,” Iroquois West coach Sam Rhodes said. “Those plays really took some momentum away from us. We played well enough to win, but it just didn’t pan out for us.”
TJ Foulks had two hits for the Raiders while Henry Gerritson, making his third start in a week, threw a complete game for Iroquois West (10-14).
The Storm is a win away from the state semifinals, a place Salt Fork baseball hasn’t reached.
“We started a group last year that was sophomore-dominated,” Hangsen said. “These are not new names to the lineup. They’ve been through it before, and these older guys have been real supportive of the younger guys.”