WHITING—Adams Central's varsity boys baseball team made the trek back to the most northwestern part of the state near Chicago once again on Monday night to finish what they started on Saturday in the regional baseball hosted at Oil City Stadium.
While things got interesting down the stretch, it was the end result that mattered most as one fan shouted several times after the final out, "It was worth it!"
The Jets move on to semi-state baseball for the first time and past the regional level for the first time in 12 years with a 12-9 victory over the Hammond Bishop Noll Warriors.
Adams Central has never tasted a semi-state as it was not in existence at the time but were in the championship game for 1A in 2001 when the Jets, coached then by Herb Bergman, lost to Triton, 13-0.
With a 12-4 lead heading into the bottom of the seventh and their ace back on the hill, Isaac Luginbill, to close out the game, Adams Central appeared to be in the driver's seat. The Warriors would make things interesting with one last hurrah, however.
Back-to-back singles started the inning putting two runners on, then a strange play occurred as Matthew Sandoval laced a grounder to third base. Cooper Hill, a junior who has battled with shoulder issues in football, made a great stop but seemed dazed as the runner beat him to the bag at third loading the bases. Hill' shoulder had popped out of place and after some medical attention, the shoulder was put back in place and Hill opted to remain in the game.
Noll's clean-up hitter, Daniel Pobereyko stepped in and scored two runs with a single to left field. The next batter Nicholas Thrasher lofted a low-flying liner to right field that was fielded cleanly by a streaking Alex Byerly from centerfield but Sandoval scored from third with ease putting the Warriors down 12-7 with one out.
The designated hitter, Julian Guerrero belted a single, followed by an Angel Figueroa single re-loading the bases. The five-hit barrage against Luginbill prompted a change from coach Dave Neuenschwander bringing in Dalton Combs for the close.
Combs' first batter, Anthony Fundukian, hit a single up the middle scoring two more runs to make it 12-9 with runners on first and second. The AC faithful allowed a sigh of breathing room on the next batter as Combs baited an infield fly to Conner Lengerich at short for the second out. After a seven-pitch duel with Larry Crisler who started the inning, Combs managed to close the game with an exclamation point strikeout earning the Jets the title.
Coach Neuey's first taste at a regional title earned a him a gatorade bath. After a shirt change, he explained how the game felt.
"It got closer than I wanted to obviously," noted the coach. "Isaac (Luginbill) made it through the sixth just fine but even he said that in the seventh they just hit him well. I'm very proud of the whole team, really. Dalton came in and shut them down by throwing hard and throwing strikes."