PREP SPORTS: VVC teams ready for regionals

May 11—The Vermilion Valley Conference baseball season has shown the promise it had before the season.

With Westville ending the season with an undefeated mark in VVC play and Bismarck-Henning/Rossville-Alvin just a game behind, the local teams in the conference are ready to step out in playoff action next week.

After losing to the Tigers on April 12, the Blue Devils have also been on a hot streak as they will enter playoff action with almost a full month of nothing but wins.

"I think our kids have settled in," BHRA coach Mark Dodd said. "Jordan Johnson, Chaz and Cruz Dubois have been real productive in the top of the order and the biggest shot in the arm that we have had has been the play of Micah Stanford. He hadn't played since the eighth grade, so it has been great to see him play well and filled in a hole that we had. Those four guys at the top of the order has been the key to our success."

Dodd also said that the pitching and fielding have also been key during the run.

"We have been pitching very well as Caden Keleminic, Anderson Thomas, Dane Dillion have been outstanding," Dodd said. "Enrique Rangel is in his third year at shortstop and he has been playing well."

The Blue Devils will host its IHSA Class 2A and if they get past, they get a chance for another major win.

Last year, BHRA beat St. Joseph-Ogden in a regional semifinal at St. Joseph. The Spartans could try to return the favor at Bismarck in the title game.

"We played a clean game to beat St. Joe and it was my biggest win in coaching baseball here," Dodd said. "They might have overlooked us then and if we face them again, I know they will not overlook us.

"I have been doing this for 11 years and it is first time we are hosting a regional. We are happy to host it and we hope it is an advantage but this is baseball and you have to play better than the other teams. We played Hoopeston on Saturday and the gave us all they could handle and I know they will again if they get past Watseka. We have 3-4 days to practice and fix things and we should be ready to roll."

The Tigers hit one goal in winning the conference, but now the hunt is on for more.

"We always have goals and the goal is to win every game, especially conference," Westville coach Joe Brazas said. "We just wanted to win the conference and we took every game very seriously and we have a line up that hits from 1-9 . When we play at our best ball, we can be competitive with everyone we play."

Westville will hit the road to play in the Unity regional. If they beat Paxton-Buckley-Loda on Thursday, they might get a chance to play Unity. Both PBL and Unity have beaten the Tigers.

"We played Unity early in the season. They are a tough team and we lost to them by one run," Brazas said. "We have Paxton and Paxton already beat us so we are not overlooking them as well. We played Mahomet-Seymour and Casey-Westfield this week and they are teams that have won their conference and beat them. We are playing Marshall on Friday and Champaign Centennial on Monday to stay sharp and come Thursday, we will be ready to go."

Armstrong-Potomac will try to win a second straight regional title. The Trojans will also be hosting a regional.

"We are excited to host. A little home cooking never hurts and we are happy to host," Armstrong-Potomac coach Wade Rogers said. "We got the word and we were very excited when we did."

The Trojans are 14-6 and was close to being in the mix for the VVC title.

"We were a couple of games away from competing for a championship," Rogers said. "We played Westville tough until the sixth inning and lost 2-1 to Bismarck. We played well, we have tough pitching and I think we can compete with anyone."

The Trojans will play either Cissna Park or Fisher on Wednesday and with a win, they can play for the regional title on Saturday.

"I worry about things one game at a time. I know we get the winner of Fisher and Cissna Park and that is all I am worried about," Rogers said. "We have to focus on taking care of business in the first game before even dreaming of anything else.

"I do have a few freshmen that have done well, but we have a core group that know about playoff action and that each pitch matters and they know they are under pressure and that is a good thing. We know the marks on our back, but we will embrace it."

Regional play starts Monday with Oakwood hosing Iroquois West and Hoopeston Area hosing Watseka in the BHRA regional. In Class 1A. Georgetown-Ridge Farm will play Tuscola, while Salt Fork will host Heritage in the Arcola regional and in the Armstrong regional, Schlarman Academy will play Blue Ridge.

The Westville softball team are entering the playoffs coming off winning their fourth straight, undefeated VVC title.

"The girls have played hard and practiced hard," Westville coach Jay Katavich said. "They had to play very well to be champs for the last four years. Most of the girls in the conference pay on travel teams and we have been blessed to have a little more talent than the other teams."

The Tigers will play Oakwood to start regional play and if they win, they will take on either Marshall or Paris.

We haven't played Marshall in the varsity level since I have been here. We played Paris every season since I have been here," Katavich said. "We lost to Paris last year and we beat them this year. So I think if we play our game and do the things we do, we can come out on top. I think we have a good chance of winning."

The BHRA softball team was also on a hot streak, but the Blue Devils are trying to get momentum before playing Watseka on Wednesday.

"We got off to a slow start and we found a lot of momentum and picked up some wins," BHRA head coach Lindsey Andrews said. "We have a young group and we just started to find confidence and settle down at the plate. We transformed into a very good team.

"After the streak, I thought we got complacent and we had a couple of tough losses recently and we have been working hard to get that momentum. Our pitching staff has been doing well and we have good leaders like Ella Myers and Eva Acton and we have two great pitchers and leaders in Eva Ronto and Raeghan Dickison. I think I couldn't have asked for a better season We have had some bumps, but there has been a lot of growth."

The Blue Devils beat the Warriors 16-6 earlier in the season, but Andrews said the team is not expecting a repeat of that in the game, with the winner possibly facing Herscher in the final.

"Watseka) are a pretty solid team. We beat them substantially, but they are not one to look past by any means. We are looking forward to playing them again," Andrews said. "I know they (Herscher) are usually pretty solid and I know about their reputation, We are up for the challenge and I know that anything can happen in softball and the best team doesn't always win. You have to show up and play and I am confident that if we play clean, we can win but we have to stick to the basics."

On Monday, Hoopeston Area will play Paxton-Buckley-Loda in the Watseka regional, while Schlarman Academy will play host Georgetown-Ridge Farm in a separate IHSA Class 1A regional and Armstrong-Potomac will host Heritage.