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GCMS falls to Altamont in Class 1A semifinal

Jun. 1—PEORIA — Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley's baseball team took Altamont to the wire in its first-ever IHSA state tournament game on Friday.

The Falcons clawed back from an early deficit and briefly led the Indians in the fourth inning of a Class 1A state semifinal game at Dozer Park before Altamont recovered to score a walk-off 3-2 victory and advance to Saturday's state championship game.

"It's just a great ballgame," GCMS coach Dustin White said. "You hate to lose it in a scenario like we did, but we also put ourselves in a scenario to win a ballgame or to only get beat by one. ... I think we would (all) say we would have taken that (Friday) morning."

Altamont got on the board in the bottom of the second inning when Kaidyn Miller doubled, which was followed by singles from Riley Berg and Kade Milleville, the latter of which brought Miller in from third base.

Milleville — the Indians' ninth hitter who finished with a pair of RBI singles in three at-bats — was one of two Altamont players to score multiple hits against GCMS starter Altin Nettleton, who scattered nine hits against five strikeouts in throwing all 6 1/3 innings.

"They were fastball hitters for sure," Nettleton said. "I learned that early in the second inning when they started kind of teeing off a little bit. (If it had to be a strike) I threw off-speed and started cruising. They're a very good team, top to bottom."

GCMS (22-8-1) responded with a pair of runs in the top of the fourth, a rally that began when Brayden Elliott walked, Zach Price was hit by a pitch and Graydon Leonard walked to load the bases.

Nettleton helped his own cause with a ground ball to Milleville at shortstop that scored Elliott, with Isaiah Johnson singling to score courtesy runner Carter Kallal immediately after to tie the game at 2.

"When you can go seven innings in the state semifinal game, there is not one thing that you can hang your head and say, 'Man, I could have done this differently,'" White said of Nettleton. "He threw a great ballgame, and I'm super proud of him."

The Indians (31-9) responded with the tying run in the bottom of the frame thanks to Milleville's second single that brought Miller in from second.

"Flip the order, get it to Kaden (Davis), get it to Dillan (Elam) and get it to Nate (Stuemke), that's that's my goal when I go up in the nine hole," Milleville said. "I know if I get on, they're probably going to come through."

GCMS chased Elam, Altamont's starter, out of the game after his pitch count exceeded 115 pitches following the sixth inning.

Elam — who allowed three hits and walked four batters in total — was nearly taken out in the fifth inning before he raised his glove just in time to prevent a line drive from Elliott from hitting him in the collarbone.

"I saw one seam on (the ball) and I put my glove up so I didn't die," Elam said.

An opportunity with the bases loaded arose for the Falcons in the top of the sixth when Nettleton, Johnson and Trent Wetherell reached base with two outs. Elam made his final stand by striking out sophomore first baseman Zeb Greer to end the inning.

"You're putting a lot of pressure on a sophomore to come up in that spot," White said. "I would have liked to have gotten to one more hitter and gotten an older guy in there, but he had good swings, and unfortunately, (Elam) made a really good pitch on him."

Davis and Elam singled to lead off the bottom of the seventh inning before Stuemke flied out to center field.

With Keegan Schultz at the plate, Davis broke for third and an errant throw from Price allowed him to score the winning run and advance the Indians to their first state championship game.

"At first, it didn't really look like we were going to make it and then we kind of turned it around," Elam said. "It's just nice to play the maximum amount of games as a senior so I get as much time to spend in this Indians jersey."

The Falcons are assured of their best-ever season regardless of how Saturday's third-place game transpires.

GCMS will face Jacksonville Routt (32-8) for third place at 10 a.m. on Saturday. The Falcons dined as a team at Country Club Barbecue in Peoria on Friday night before retiring to their hotel for one last night as a team.

"As a team (Friday), just go have fun together because it'll be our last time together," Elliott said. "So just having fun together for the last time."