LA SALLE — Talk about making the most of the chances you get, and in the most dramatic manner possible.
The Streator Junior League All-Stars were in the driver's seat as the last remaining undefeated team in the District 20 Tournament, but entered the last of the seventh inning against Oglesby on Wednesday night trailing by three runs and needing another to avoid a winner-take-all contest the next day, and got those three and the one more on just one hit.
A Chase Martin single, three walks and three hit batsmen by four Oglesby pitchers in that final half-inning — the last a beaning of Zander Middleton with the bases loaded — gave the Streator club a wild, walk-off, 8-7 victory and the district pennant here at Rotary Park.
Aided by a triple play in the second inning and a double play in the third, starter Ryan Juricic got stronger as the game went on, keeping his team in the game until Xander Boyles came in for a scoreless top of the seventh. He then became the winning pitcher thanks to the big rally that sent Streator to its third district Junior title in a row and fourth overall since joining Little League in 1999.
The decision also gives Streator a berth in the sub-state tourney.
"They just aged me 10 years, I think," said Streator manager Beau Boyles. "I never thought in a million years that we'd get a hit by pitch to bring in the winning run. Three hit by pitches in the last inning kind of showed that they weren't as deep in the bullpen as we were. ... They had to burn a lot of pitching to play Ottawa, to play us, and that helped us prevail.
"I can't say enough good about Ryan. He's always poised, cool, calm and collected, and as the game went on, instead of getting weaker, got stronger, and Xander came in and shut them down ... but I told the guys, 'Hey, we can't keep getting double- and-triple plays to get out of things. We have to make plays.'
"I told them that patience would win this game for us. We just had to keep our heads up and make plays, and that, including our patience at the plate in that last inning, made the difference."
In fairness to Oglesby, they burned up a good part of their pitching coming back through the losers bracket to get to the final against undefeated Streator, but got a solid three innings in the middle of the contest from Joey Shepherd to put his team in a position to win. In the seventh, however, he gave up the Martin hit, walked Jesse Simpson and hit Carter Ewing with a pitch, loading the bases with no one out. Logan Miskell relieved him, but walked Carlos Portugues to force in a run and, with one out, hit Carl Sass with a delivery to make it 7-6. His wild pitch then scored Ewing with the tying run, Ewing's fourth tally of the night.
Dalton Znaniecki took the mound and walked the only batter he faced, Juricic, to reload the bases and bring on Michael Jereb. He hit Middleton with his first pitch, forcing in the game-winner and stunning the assembled crowd.
Earlier that evening, a Portugues RBI single in the first, a wild pitch and a Sass run-scoring groundout in the third, and an RBI single by Boyles in the fifth helped Juricic keep the locals close, after a huge three-run double by Oglesby's Colin Nave in the visitors' third put his team on top until the final rally.
"I believed in them and had faith that they could do this," Coach Boyles said, "and they pulled it off. This group meshed well, they jelled. They wanted it and made it happened."
At Rotary Park, LaSalle
Streator All-Stars 8, Oglesby All-Stars 7
OGLESBY (7) — Shepherd cf-p-1b 4-1-2-1, Nave p-c 4-0-1-3, Mini ss 4-1-1-0, Knoblauch lf-3b .4-1-2-1, Aimone 3b 2-0-1-0, Abens rf 1-0-0-0, Jereb 2b 4-0-1-1, Starkey 1b-p 4-0-0-0, Znaniecki c-3b 1-1-1-0, Kolczaski ph 1-0-0-0, Burke ph 1-1-1-0, Miskell rf-cf-p Totals 334-7-11-6.
STREATOR (8) — Ewing cf 3-4-2-0, Portugues ss 3-2-2-2, Boyles 3b-p 4-0-1-1, Sass 1b 3-0-0-2, Juricic p-3b 3-0-1-0, Middleton c 3-0-0-1, Novotney 2b 2-0-1-0, Hoekstra 2b 1-0-0-0, Howard lf 1-0-0-0,m Martin lf 2-1-1-0, Gullens rf-spr 1-0-0-0, Simpson rf 1-1-0-0. Totals 27-8-8-6.
Oglesby 013 012 0 — 7 11 1
Streator 102 010 4 — 8 8 4
LOB — Oglesby 9, Streator 4. 2B — Knoblauch 2, Nave, Aimone. SB — Mini, Jereb, Burke, Miskell, Ewing, Portugues, Juricic, Howard. HBP — Ewing (by Shepherd), Middleton (by Jereb).
Oglesby ip r er h bb k
Nave 2.2 3 1 4 0 2
Shepherd 3.0 4 4 3 1 0
Miskell (L) 0.1 1 1 0 1 0
Starkey 0.0 0 0 0 1 0
Jereb 0.0 0 0 0 0 0
Juricic 6.0 7 3 11 1 5
Boyles (W) 1.0 0 0 0 1 2