Prairie Ridge didn’t go down meekly in the Class 3A state championship game on Thursday at Wintrust Field in Schaumburg.
The Wolves attempted to tie the game in the sixth inning with a steal of home. And it nearly worked.
“It took the perfect throw to get him,” Springfield catcher Case Sparks said. “He basically slid right into my glove. So I didn’t have to do much but it sure took us by surprise.”
The Senators beat the Wolves 8-7 to win their first baseball state championship. They trailed 6-0 after two innings but tied the game and took the lead with a four-run fifth inning. The big blast was a three-run triple from shortstop Ben Hartl.
Springfield (31-5) trailed in all six of its playoff games. James Steinwart has coached the Senators for 34 years and is 658-548. He’s seen some baseball in his time.
“God had a hand in a lot of this,” Senators coach James Steinwart said. “You don’t see a string like that. There were things happening that were lining up that was beyond normal. This is special. It’s a blessing. Not everybody gets to do this.”
Springfield starting pitcher Joseph Crum threw just 17 pitches. The Senators burned through four pitchers before finding fire in a bottle with 6-5 senior Richie Snider, who struck out five batters in a row during a stretch in the third, fourth and fifth inning.
“Holy cow, he had to be touching 90,” Prairie Ridge coach Glen Pecoraro said. “He sure made a difference. I thought we started to figure him out late, but nothing that fell for us.”
Both teams won semifinal games earlier in the day. Prairie Ridge (19-14) beat Washington 4-3 and the Senators knocked off St. Laurence 6-4 in eight innings.
“These guys fought to the end,” Pecoraro said. “We started the season 2-6. At the end of the year we started to find consistency. We knew the players were there. It was just a matter of having the confidence to play at a high level the entire ballgame.”
Matthew Porter hit a two-run triple for the Wolves in the first inning. Prairie Ridge led 6-0 after two innings and 7-1 after three. The Wolves were hitless for the final four innings.
Springfield is an extremely young team. Three sophomores (Ryne Crum, Griffin Burk, Cooper Burk) and a freshman (Jack Swaney) are in the starting lineup. That’s even more notable considering there was no high school baseball season in the 2019-20 school year due to COVID.
“They came up and hit the ball hard and did their part,” Sparks said. “They deserved to be up here. We’ve been talking about winning this since 2016, since the last time the Senators were here.”