GCMS' Leonard throws no-hitter in sectional title win

May 25—ARCOLA — Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley went into the top of the seventh inning of Saturday's Class 1A sectional championship game hoping for a baserunner and some small ball to manufacture the go-ahead run against Mt. Pulaski.

The Falcons got that run — and five more — as they turned some defensive miscues by the Hilltoppers into a game-changing half inning. More than enough cushion for freshman Graydon Leonard to finish off his unexpected complete game no hitter in a 7-1 victory that also secured the program's first sectional title.

"It's one of things you're hoping for one run to give yourself a chance to get three outs in the seventh," GCMS coach Dustin White said. "Then we get a couple, and it gives you some breathing room. You kind of relax. It makes it a lot better scenario having a six-run lead than one-run lead for sure."

Altin Nettleton drew a walk to start GCMS' seventh-inning rally. The plan was for Isaiah Johnson to drop down a sacrifice bunt and move Nettleton into scoring position, but Johnson reached safely. Another bunt from Trent Wetherell yielded a third baserunner when Mt. Pulaski's third baseman and catcher collided trying to field it.

Zeb Greer struck out, but that brought leadoff hitter Tucker Cribbett to the plate, and he cleared the bases with a shot into the left-center field gap. David Hull followed with a single, and Braydon Elliott ripped a two-run double to finish off the rally.

Cribbett finished 2 of 4 with a double, one run scored and a game-high four RBI. That the senior second baseman came through in the clutch for the Falcons wasn't exactly a surprise. He's been a consistent producer in the GCMS lineup since a late-season call-up to varsity as a freshman.

"He's just continued to hit for 3 1/2 years for us," White said. "He works super hard. ... He just has a really high hand-eye coordination to put the ball in play, and he hits it where it's pitched. In the last couple weeks here, I think he's just been really extra determined."

While a six-run seventh inning wasn't exactly GCMS' plan, neither was throwing Leonard the full seven innings. But the freshman starter was lights out against Mt. Pulaski, giving up one run on zero hits and three walks while striking out eight.

"When he came off after the sixth inning I said, "Hey, do you want to go back out?' and he said, 'Yeah,'" White said. "His yeah got a lot louder (after the six-run seventh). He wanted to finish it. He's a kid that just competes. He plays soccer and plays basketball. He was varsity in both of those. Uber athletic and probably the most humble kid on our team."

GCMS' postseason run will continue with an 11 a.m. Monday super-sectional against Kewanee Wethersfield on the Illinois Wesleyan campus in Bloomington. The Flying Geese beat Peru St. Bede 4-2 on Saturday to clinch their spot in the super.