PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD/WYZZ) — Three pitchers, three stories, one goal.
Three area pitchers came up big to help their teams earn trips to state. Washington baseball, U-High baseball and Illini Bluffs softball are all preparing for state semifinal games this week.
Washington is at state for the first time since the late Kevin Brown took the Panthers to a third place finish in 2007. Senior Devon Vanderheydt played basketball for Brown before the coach’s death in 2019.
Friday, on the two-year anniversary of the coach’s passing, Vanderheydt pitched the Panthers past Morton in the sectional title game. He also homered in the game and then added a double in Washington’s super-sectional win over Geneseo on Monday.
“I’ve kept his funeral pamphlet in my bag, so he can have another visit to state,” Vanderheydt said. “So we are (playing at state) for him.”
Washington plays Crystal Lake Prairie Ridge in Thursday’s state semifinals in Schaumburg.
U-High’s Jake Swartz struck out 14 in complete game win over Ottawa Marquette in Monday’s super-sectional. The Pioneers were unsure if he could pitch in the game because of a blister injury he suffered last Monday.
Steve Paxson/U-High head coach: “It took a full week for it to get better. We didn’t want anybody else on the team on the mound in that (game),” said U-high coach Steve Paxson. “Jake is a bulldog. Just a tremendous competitor. He did a terrific job.”
Swartz allowed two runs on five hits in the 9-2 win. Now the Pioneers get ready to play Freeburg at 1 p.m. in Friday’s state semifinals at Illinois State University.
“I prepared a lot for this game. We’ve had this game on our schedule a long time,” Swartz. “We’ve always wanted to make it to state. I knew if I got the game I’d be locked in. I was locked in, all my pitches were working. And I got the job done.”
Illini Bluff’s pitcher Kierston McCoy tossed a shutout in the Tigers’ 8-0 win over Centralia Christ Our Rock Lutheran in Monday’s super-sectional. The Tigers are making their second straight state finals appearance.
“This group of girls is amazing. Year after year, we all work hard, we come together in practice,” McCoy said. “They are just a great group of girls. There’s not a lot of drama and we all work together smoothly.”
IB, which finished state runner-up in 2019, plays Orangeville at 10 a.m. Wednesday in the class 1A state semifinals.