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Falcons end season with fourth-place finish: 'I'm super proud'

Jun. 1—PEORIA — With Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley's baseball season down to its final two outs, coach Dustin White turned to an unlikely pinch-hitter.

Addison Goodling's ensuing single didn't flip the tide of GCMS's 3-0 loss to Jacksonville Routt in the Class 1A third-place game on Saturday at Dozer Park.

But the junior's first hit of the season — in just his second at-bat — whipped the Falcons faithful into a frenzy along the third base line as his attempts to swipe second base were thwarted by foul balls from Alex Overman.

"He's a kid that has probably enjoyed this ride as much as anybody else, even though he hasn't played as much," White said. "For him to get in there, get a base hit, kind of battle and then the whole crowd wants him to steal, that was a lot of fun."

Goodling's heroics blunted the sting of a season-ending loss that sent the Falcons (22-9-1) home from their first state tournament appearance with a fourth-place trophy.

A pair of competitive games — including a 3-2 loss to Altamont in Friday's state semifinal game that saw the Indians win in walk-off fashion — inspired hope that the Ford County program can reach those heights again.

"Next year I hope now the juniors, sophomores and freshmen, they know how it feels to play on the next stage," outgoing GCMS senior Ty Cribbett said. "I'm hoping they can bring that to next year and come back."

Some 12 hours before Saturday's 10 a.m. first pitch, White and the Falcons weren't sure that there would be a game to play at all. Weather radars showed plenty of green surrounding Peoria as the forecast called for steady rain.

"It's kind of been the way we've played the last (three) weeks," White said. "We just don't know. ... It fit the mold of how the season ended for us. But they came up ready to play, and I'm super proud."

But the rain largely stayed away aside from a slight mist as the game proceeded as scheduled, giving the Falcons a chance to play their final game of a historic season.

"It feels great," outgoing GCMS senior Isaiah Johnson said. "Even though we lost, never been here in school history and being a senior and being the first team to do it is just amazing."

Brayden Elliott tossed five innings and allowed five hits against four strikeouts, with freshman Graydon Leonard adding four strikeouts in two scoreless innings of relief.

Yielding a combined six runs on the state's biggest stage in two games left White satisfied.

"When you get to this point, the game should be low-scoring," White said. "The pitchers should be better when you get here. ... I can't be happier with the way our guys played, the effort that they showed on the two days. I hope that they had fun out there."

The Falcons' historic season wasn't lost on a roster of seven seniors. Along with Cribbett, Johnson and Overman, GCMS will need to replace Carson Maxey, Zach Price, Altin Nettleton and Carter Kallal.

"We've got a lot of guys who can come back that are pretty solid, but you always know that this is the first group to do it," White said. "You've got something to live up to now, and when these guys come back in six months, a year, five years, 10 years from now, you've got all this stuff on the wall and remember that."