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Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Edwardsville meets Providence Catholic in the 4A baseball semifinals


The Edwardsville Tigers celebrate their win against Downers Grove North in the Class 4A Illinois Wesleyan Super-Sectional on Monday in Bloomington.

The Edwardsville Tigers celebrate their win against Downers Grove North in the Class 4A Illinois Wesleyan Super-Sectional on Monday in Bloomington.

Billy Woods/The Intelligencer

The Edwardsville Tigers had history on their side during the Class 4A Illinois Wesleyan Super-Sectional.

With wins of 5-2 over Bradley Bourbonnais and 7-1 over Downers Grove North, the Tigers moved to 10-0 at Jack Horenberger Field in Bloomington.

EHS (31-8) will need history again to get into the game when it takes on the Providence Catholic Celtics (30-8) in the Class 4A state semifinals Friday at Duly Health & Care Field in Joliet at 4 p.m. . In the other semifinal, York (31-9) will play Hoffman Estates Conant (29-7) at 7 p.m.

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The two-time defending Class 4A Tigers have never lost a state semifinal. They will make their state record 19e baseball state tournament on Friday and is 8-0 in the state semifinals.

The third-place game in Class 4A is scheduled for Saturday at 4 p.m., followed by the state championship at 7 p.m.

“It’s so fun to see our guys experiencing that and experiencing that,” EHS coach Tim Funkhouser said. “I know we’re going to be in a position where we’re not going to be complacent about getting there. Our boys deserve success.”

Before the introduction of the four-class system in 2009, there were two classes (A and AA) and the state tournament consisted of three rounds with quarterfinals, semifinals and finals.

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EHS had Class AA state tournament appearances ending in the quarterfinals in 1947, 1952, 1953, 1980, 1982, 1988, 2004 and 2007. Tom Pile coached the team’s first state title in 1990 and added another title in 1998. EHS came second in 1991.

Under Funkhouser, EHS has captured Class 4A state titles in 2019, 2022 and 2023, as well as a runner-up finish in 2017. He added a runner-up finish in Class AA in 2002.

With two wins at the state tournament this weekend, EHS will join Providence Catholic as the only program to go three-peat in state history regardless of class. The Celtics won three straight Class 4A state titles between 2014 and 2016 under current head coach Mark Smith.

The Tigers and Celtics are both tied with Joliet Catholic with a state-record five state championships.

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Friday’s semifinal between EHS and Providence Catholic will feature two teams that have combined to win six of the past nine Class 4A state titles.

“I don’t think we’re changing anything,” EHS junior Greyson Rathgeb said. “We played quite well. It’s great when our pitchers can go six innings and give up one or two runs. If we continue what we are doing, I don’t think there will be any slowdown.”

All signs point to 6-foot-4 righty Kasten Goebbert starting on the Celtics’ mound. The free junior pitched a complete game in the Providence Catholic Sectional championship game against Lincoln-Way West, allowing two earned runs on six hits with four strikeouts.

According to Prep Baseball Report, Goebbert has a fastball that reaches a top speed of 80 miles per hour. He leads Providence Catholic in innings pitched (37) and has a 2.65 ERA.

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Junior right-hander Cooper Eggert (2.53 ERA, team-high 53 strikeouts) is another option.

The Celtics used Nate O’Donnell, a junior and Creighton commit, in the super-sectional against Mount Carmel. On offense, O’Donnell leads the way with 11 home runs. He has 11 doubles and is batting .434 with a team-high 52 RBI.

Eggert is hitting .443 with 19 extra base hits, including five home runs. He has 47 hits and 25 RBI.

Other top hitters include Bradley commit and senior infielder Jackson Smith (.435 average, six home runs, 10 doubles, 45 RBI), Eddie Olszta (.379 average, 11 extra-base hits, 27 RBI), John Greenwood (.408 average , 26 RBI), Enzo Infelise (.347 average, 19 extra-base hits, 31 RBI) and Mitch Voltz (.358 average, 11 extra-base hits, 17 RBI).

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The Celtics have hit 39 home runs this season.

Facing Providence’s Catholic offense will be a pitching staff led by three sophomores this postseason: Chase Milburn, Tony Eberlin and Hunter Baugh.

“It’s going to take a lot,” Milburn said of winning a third state title, “but we have it in us.”

Eberlin, a TCU commit who threw a one-hitter against O’Fallon to win the Edwardsville Regional and pitched six innings against Bradley-Bourbonnais to win the Illinois Wesleyan Sectional, should be in line Friday for the honor to get. He is 7-1 and has a 2.89 ERA with 53 strikeouts.

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Milburn has a 9-0 record with an ERA of 0.61 and 49 strikeouts. He threw two complete games this postseason.

Baugh has earned two saves in the playoff round.

EHS has been without junior Joe Chiarodo lately. The Alabama commit is considered one of the best players in the state by Prep Baseball Report. He has a 2.60 ERA with 51 strikeouts on the mound and is batting .420 with 13 extra base hits.

Top hitters for the Tigers include shortstop Lucas Krebs (.380 average, 13 extra-base hits, team-high 34 RBI), third baseman Kolton Wright (.374 average, 34 hits, 20 RBI), catcher Lucas Huebner (. 307 average, 27 hits, 25 RBI), design hitter Chase Alwardt (.304 average, 17 hits, 14 RBI), Rathgeb (.282 average, 13 extra-base hits, 23 RBI) and Beyers (.261 average, a team -high five home runs, 23 RBI).

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The rest of the lineup consists of Baugh at second base (17 hits, 13 RBI) and outfielders Logan Porter and Mace Karnes.

“I’m super excited,” Beyers said. “I’m dying. I’ve been waiting for this all season.”

Krebs, an Illinois commit, was the third baseman last season.

“It was a great atmosphere. It was the most fun I’ve ever had playing baseball. It’s a great experience,” Krebs said.

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Baugh was in the dugout as a freshman last season when EHS defeated Brother Rice 6-4 in the championship game.

“I remember how loud it was. All the energy was there on every pitch of every game. The sound was there,” Baugh said.