Maroons and Bulldogs to resume sectional title showdown on Monday

Jun. 2—The wait to have a Champaign County baseball program win a Class 3A sectional championship will end on Monday.

If the weather cooperates.

With a chance for either Champaign Central or Mahomet-Seymour to then possibly play another important postseason game on Monday night.

Uncertainty is the theme for how this 3A sectional title game that started in Rochester on Saturday afternoon and is set to conclude on Monday in Monticello will finish.

What is certain is this: Central leads Mahomet-Seymour 4-3 at the start of the top of the fifth inning when play resumes Monday at a neutral location in Piatt County. Why the change in venue?

Rain. Rain pushed the start time back more than three hours on Saturday, with the initial 11 a.m. first pitch delayed until 2:38 p.m. And then more rain forced the game to halt just before 5 p.m. on Saturday.

With no lights at Rochester and an all-grass playing surface, the decision was made Saturday night to move the game to Monticello, where an all-turf playing surface was unveiled prior to this season at the Wilkey Complex. Plus, it cuts down on travel time for both teams in what could be a potentially long day for whoever wins the sectional title.

A super-sectional game with Highland (28-6-1) at 6 p.m. Monday at the Workman Family Field on the Millikin University campus in Decatur is still on the IHSA schedule for either the Maroons (25-13) or Bulldogs (27-8).

"It's tough for everybody involved," Central coach John Staab said Sunday. "Rochester worked extremely hard to make it happen, but the weather on Saturday was the exact opposite of what folks thought."

The possibility of playing two postseason games on the same day to determine who could wind up at Duly Health & Care Field in Joliet on Friday afternoon for a 3A state semifinal game isn't something either Staab or M-S coach Nic Difilippo entertained the notion of when the IHSA playoffs started.

"It's a new experience," Difilippo said Sunday. "Something we're going to take with stride. It seems like that's high school baseball in the spring. You never know what the weather is going to be like."

A back-and-forth start happened Saturday, with Central junior left-hander Luke McClure getting the Maroons out of a bases-loaded jam in the bottom of the fourth and preserving Central's 4-3 lead. McClure replaced Central senior starter Chase Bartlett with two outs in the inning and walked M-S senior Finn Randolph to load the bases before getting M-S junior Gavin Bailey to strike out looking just before the rain started falling in Rochester.

Central regained the lead in the top of the fourth with its first multi-run effort of the game. The Maroons left the bases loaded in the second after junior Carter Bleakney's leadoff solo home run and ran themselves out of more runs in the third after senior Charlie Hobbs tripled to lead off the inning and scored.

The two-run fourth inning for Central was aided by a pair of M-S miscues in the field. Central freshman John Timmons reached on an error, McClure singled and advanced to second on another error and both came around to score when senior Chris Timmons hit a hard groundball into left-center field and also advanced an extra base on an error.

M-S scored the first run Saturday when Randolph reached on a one-out infield single and scored three batters later on a sacrifice fly from junior Nolan Johnson that went just deep enough into center field.

The Bulldogs added two runs in the bottom of the third with Randolph again sparking the rally by leading off the third inning with a sharp single up the middle. An RBI triple from Bailey deep into the left-center field gap followed before Bailey scored on a wild pitch.

M-S junior left-hander Mason Orton started and threw all four innings for the Bulldogs on Saturday, but DiFilippo said Sunday he can't use Orton again on Monday because of pitch count limitations. That means either Randolph or fellow senior Alec Bergman will likely get the ball on the mound.

"We haven't decided," Difilippo said "We've got two guys we trust who are both going to pitch in college. We'll decide what's the best matchup."

So that's what transpired Saturday and Sunday to set the stage for what could turn into a memorable Monday for either the Maroons or Bulldogs.

"We're here and you can't do anything about the what-ifs," Staab said. "Those things are in the rearview. We've got to try and beat a very good Mahomet team that put up 10 runs on Chatham Glenwood. They've always got a wealth of arms. We've got a lot to prepare for."

"We've played doubleheaders all year long, just not with a six-hour break in between," Difilippo added with a laugh. "If it means a chance to go to the Final Four, so be it."