Edwardsville High School senior first baseman Bryce Beyers trots around the bases after hitting a three-run home run against Downers Grove North Monday afternoon at Illinois Wesleyan University. (Photos by Brad Piros)

BLOOMINGTON, Ill. – Bryce Beyers knew it was going to be a good day.

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“I felt like a million bucks when I woke up this morning,” he said after a 7-1 super-sectional win over Downers Grove North Monday afternoon at Jack Horenberger Field on the campus of Illinois Wesleyan University.

The confidence showed.

The 6-foot-3 senior went 3-for-3 on the day with four RBI. He did so with two singles and a big three-run home run in the bottom of the third inning.

Fellow senior, catcher, and team leader Lucas Huebner had a couple of hits and was walked twice in the lead-off spot.

“So happy for Lucas Huebner and Bryce Beyers,” Tigers’ head coach Tim Funkhouser said.

“Two seniors, Lucas, I think he was on base four times, it felt like we were always courtesy [running] for him. And Bryce, to do what he did, he’s shown that at times the second half of the season, and that was a big-time moment.”

Beyers leads the team with five home runs now, most of which have come as of late.

“He’s had a great second half of the year,” Funkhouser said. “A senior laying it on the line, trusting himself.”

Although the final result was a good one, it was a frustrating start for the Tigers in Bloomington.

Chase Milburn started on the mound, and he gave up a leadoff double off the wall. Jude Warwick, a Michigan State commit, had the hit and then stole third. Jimmy Janicki grounded out but scored Warwick to grab the early 1-0 lead.

It turned out to be Milburn’s lone mistake.

He threw a complete game, only giving up one earned run on two hits with four strikeouts. He finished the day with 75 pitches, 52 of which were thrown for strikes.

“Chase Milburn was awesome,” Funkhouser said. “Gives up the first ball, their lead-off guy (Warwick) is a great player, hits one off the wall, [Milburn] doesn’t flinch, gets out of the inning with only one scratch and after that was just locked in, pitch after pitch.”

Ben Llewellyn came into the game with a 1.43 ERA through 68 2/3 innings pitched with a 10-1 record on the mound. He made the start for the Trojans.

The Tigers made him work.

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Edwardsville plated its first of seven unanswered runs in the bottom of the second when Greyson Rathgeb hit a line drive over the left field wall on a 2-1 pitch that tied the game.

That seemed to rattle Llewellyn. He had thrown 50 pitches through the first two innings as the Tigers were taking some disciplined at-bats.

“Historically, we’ve been a patient team,” Funkhouser said. “I think once Greyson puts that swing on a ball, guys aren’t used to being hit when they have a 1.4 ERA. Our guys, it comes after rep after rep of [batting practice]. If you watch our practice and our pregame, you would think it’s so monotonous and boring, but our guys lock in each at bat. Our guys buy into it.”

Milburn went three-up, three-down in the top of the third and had thrown 30 pitches through three innings in comparison.

Lucas Krebs took a leadoff walk in the bottom of the third before Huebner singled. With the runners on second and third, Beyers stepped up and drilled one to right-center field that cleared at least 380 feet to make it 4-1.

“He threw a fastball on the outer half, and I was able to pull it,” Beyers said. “I was 1-2, he threw me a slider off the plate and a changeup, and then the fastball, and I did what I’m supposed to do with it.”

Meanwhile, Llewellyn had thrown 70 pitches through three and then 93 through four.

After giving up two more runs in the fifth, he was replaced by Warwick.

Huebner took a leadoff walk before Chase Alwardt singled. Evan Moore pinch ran for Huebner and Landon Dykes-Sadowwski did the same for Alwardt.

Moore got to third on Alwardt’s hit and scored on Rathgeb’s fielder's choice to make it 5-1. Beyers singled to left and brought in Dykes-Sadowwski to increase the lead. That was Llewellyn’s last action.

Krebs hit an RBI double that scored Kolten Wright in the bottom of the sixth to get to the final scoreline of 7-1. The Tigers outhit the Trojans 11-2.

The win places Edwardsville in the IHSA Class 4A state tournament for the third year in a row and the fifth time since 2017 when the team took second.

The Tigers seek a third straight state championship after having won back-to-back in 2022 and 2023. It would be the fourth title in five seasons after also winning in 2019.

“Just so blessed, to be competing, and be in the arena,” Funkhouser said. “We play an incredibly tough schedule, so the teams that we face are pretty much like the teams that we’ve faced over the course of the season.”

Edwardsville will take on the Providence Catholic Celtics (31-8) of New Lenox in the first Class 4A state semifinal on Friday, June 7 at 4 p.m. in Joliet at Duly Health & Care Field.

The other semifinal, between York (31-9) and Conant (29-7) will be at 7 p.m. The third-place game will be on Saturday at 4 p.m. with the championship at 7 p.m.

“It’s so fun to watch our guys compete,” Funkhouser said, “and I’m glad we get an opportunity to play two more games.”

“The team looked great. Just all around, offensively, and defensively, we looked fantastic,” Beyers said. “So, I’m excited, we know the job’s not finished yet, we still got a lot more to achieve.”

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