WASHINGTON, Ill. (WMBD/WYZZ) — Washington has had a magical baseball season.
The Panthers won 11 of their last 12 games in the regular season and earned a share of the Mid-Illini Conference title with two wins over East Peoria the final week of the season.
Some of the wins in the hot streak came in dramatic fashion. Josh Heyder and Kaleb Gauf hit walkoff homers in consecutive conference games.
All of this has prepared the Panthers well for this week. A week when they hope to win regional and sectional championships.
“I don’t think they ever feel out of it now,” said Panthers head coach Kyle Wisher. “I don’t think they get too uptight anymore. We played big games down the stretch, the pressure hasn’t gotten to them.”
And now Washington’s magical season hits the postseason. The Panthers won their regional opener of Metamora and play Ottawa for the regional title Monday.
But to a man the Panthers admit this season might not be so magical, if it weren’t for a home loss to Eureka back on May 7.
“That Eureka loss definitely hurt us a lot. It was a game we should have won,” said senior shortstop Ethan Mpountz. “We all huddled up and we said we can either take a step backwards or a step forward.”
Eureka benefited from five Washington errors in the 5-4 win.
“We talk about the Eureka loss a lot,” said senior catcher Josh Heyder. “Those 1-run ball games kill you. We are a different team now.”
It’s been a month since that loss. The Panthers certainly are a different team.
And they’re ready to prove it again this week.
“I’ve told them for weeks. We have good pitching, if we play good defense, with the way we hit the ball, we’re going to be a tough team to beat,” Wisher said. “When we do that, we’re pretty tough.”