Westville baseball wins first regional title since 1993

May 18—TOLONO — Westville's baseball team did something it hadn't done since 1993 on Saturday morning.

Joe Brazas — now Westville's coach — was a sophomore on that 1993 team, which was the last squad in program history to win a regional title before the third-seeded Tigers defeated second-seeded Unity 7-2 with a Class 2A plaque on the line.

"The guys were working so hard," Brazas said. "The coaches, we're hard on them, but if we make things harder on them, it will pay benefits in big games like this and it did. ... We came ready to play and we had a plan and it went well."

Westville's regional championship on the Rockets' home field didn't come in the same fashion that its 16-1 win against Paxton-Buckley-Loda in the semifinal round did.

For one, the weather was better; the Tigers' win against the Panthers was split between Thursday and Friday due to inclement weather.

Not that the Tigers considered that a huge detriment.

"Other than the pitching, I feel like we were OK," Westville senior Drew Wichtowski said. "We came back and we hit and kept it going."

Less offense ensued in Saturday's game, specifically in the early stages.

Unity starter Brady Parr found himself in a jam in the top of the first inning after Cam Steinbaugh and Zach Russell reached base to lead off the game. But Parr struck out three of the next four batters he faced to set the table for Tyler Henry to single and score in the bottom of the frame to give the Rockets an early 1-0 lead.

That stood as the game's lone run until the top of the fourth inning.

"We just didn't hit," Unity coach Tom Kimball said. "I just told those guys that it's just they outhit us. To me, that's just the bottom line. They got more key hits and were better in the box than what we were."

Westville vaulted into the lead and never looked back when Ben Johnson and Chance Quick walked and singled in consecutive at bats and came around to score off the bat of Steinbaugh.

"Believing in each other," Brazas said. "We don't have that guy where if he doesn't hit, we're done. ... We've got guys that can hit up and down the lineup and we got guys on through maybe a groundout or moving a guy over, and we had a couple of big hits."

Unity's Nolan Remole nearly tied the game an inning later after hitting a leadoff single and getting the green light to round third on a double from Emmerson Bailey.

But a strong throw from center fielder Easton Bolin was cut off by Steinbaugh, who fired a laser to Wichtowski to apply the tag at home plate and record the out.

"We had our normal infielders where they are," Wichtowski said. "Matt (Darling) made plays, Cameron and Zach up the middle made plays. Our outfielders caught the fly balls that were hit to them. We had no flaws in the defense."

Wichtowski was again involved in a pivotal play in the top of the sixth inning, when he cleared the bases with a three-run home run. That, combined with an RBI triple from Bolin that scored Johnson, broke the game open.

"We knew (Unity pitcher Dane Eisenmenger) threw a lot of sliders," Wichtowski said. "We saw him earlier in the year and we hit him, but he threw me slider after slider and I fouled them off. I had two strikes, knew I had to protect. He threw me a slider low and I just hit it."

Johnson — who hit his first career home run in the Tigers' semifinal triumph — collected a pair of walks and singled to help the winning cause.

It capped a week that the freshman won't soon forget.

"It feels good," Johnson said. "I've been seeing the ball and trying to hit the ball hard."

Cade Schaumburg went the distance for the Tigers on the mound, turning in seven innings of six-hit ball with three strikeouts against two earned runs. The final run of the game came when Brayden Henry doubled to score Oliver Rawlings with two outs in the bottom of the seventh.

"At first I was struggling with my offspeed and then I started figuring it out," Schaumburg said. "I just kept going with it and pounded the zone and my infield made a lot of good plays for me."

Westville will face Monticello — which beat Clinton 3-1 on Saturday in the other side of the bracket — at Workman Family Baseball Field on the Millikin University campus in Decatur at 7 p.m. Wednesday in a sectional semifinal game.

"We've played (Monticello) good once," Schaumburg said. "We only lost 2-1 and the one run they had was unearned, so I think we have a good shot at it. We're getting really good right now."