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STATE PREVIEW: St. Anthony, Wilmington meet in battle of two overly-dominant teams

May 30—EFFINGHAM — Tony Kreke remembers exactly what he was doing in 2012.

"I was coaching baseball at Ramsey High School," he said. "That was my first teaching and coaching job."

That same year was also the last time the St. Anthony baseball team advanced to the state tournament.

Now, the Bulldogs — under Kreke — are heading back to the promised land, hoping to bring home the program's second state championship.

"Really excited for these guys," Kreke said. "They've went through a lot of tough times throughout this season and ever since we played super-sectionals in Carbondale against Goreville. We were heartbroken for a while and you could tell, they were ticked and then you get the word that you're bumped up to 2A but they were never once phased by that at all.

"If anything, it upped their game."

St. Anthony enters the state tournament with a 25-5-1 record and the No. 2 ranking in the state, according to Max Preps.

The Bulldogs take on Wilmington, who is ranked No. 1 on the Max Preps website, at 7 p.m. Friday at Dozer Park in Peoria.

Kreke believes the schedule that he's put his team against has helped them get to this point.

"We had a really strong schedule at the start. Then, we had three games in a row where we kind of stumbled," Kreke said. "We had three tough losses, but I really think those three losses helped develop us into who we are."

Brock Fearday leads St. Anthony, both at the plate and on the mound.

At the plate, Fearday has a .417 batting average with 11 doubles, seven home runs, 41 RBIs and 26 runs scored. On the mound, he has a 1.75 ERA in 68 innings to go along with an 8-1 record, 59 hits allowed, 17 earned runs and 21 walks to 74 strikeouts.

"He's always preparing for these moments," said Kreke of Fearday. "He loves to be able to go out there and showcase what he's capable of."

Connor Roepke adds a .409 batting average to the lineup to go with five doubles, one triple, four home runs, 35 RBIs and 10 runs scored.

Brady Hatton and Sam Link are two other players with batting averages above .300. Hatton has a .378 batting average with seven doubles, one triple, seven home runs, 30 RBIs and 29 runs; Link has a .333 batting average, five doubles, one triple, 24 RBIs and 16 runs scored.

Wilmington has a number of players with high batting averages, as well.

The most notable are Zach Ohlund, who has a batting average of .424 with 10 doubles, nine home runs, 46 RBIs and 28 runs scored and Lucas Rink, who has a .390 batting average with 10 doubles, two triples, three home runs, 25 RBIs and 38 runs scored.

Heading into the game, Kreke just wants his team to "stay in our own dugout."

"I've been saying it all year, 'faceless opponent,'" Kreke said. "I can scout all I want, but really what it comes down to is we got to know what we can do. We know what we are and what we're capable of and right now, we're trying to become the best team that we can."

What they are also trying to do, though, is win the last two guaranteed games left in the 2024 season.

"We're going up there and the preparation and all the teams we've played, the adrenaline is gonna be running on Friday, but these guys have seen it," Kreke said. "They came in as freshmen and they got really valuable experience as freshmen and as they've grown, they've become our top players and top leaders in our program. They're not satisfied by any means.

"They know what they're capable of and they know what their job is."