The Edwardsville Tigers are awarded their state tournament third-place trophy after defeating the York Dukes 6-1 at Duly Health and Care Field in Joliet. (Photos by Brad Piros)

JOLIET, Ill. - It was an unfamiliar situation for the Edwardsville Tigers baseball program Saturday afternoon.

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It was a fondly-remembered destination at Duly Health and Care Field in Downtown Joliet, playing in the state tournament for a ninth time in program history.

But Saturday marked the first time the Tigers have played in the third-place game.

The previous eight times led to five state titles and three runner’s up trophies, meaning that long-time Edwardsville head coach Tim Funkhouser had never lost on the first day of state.

“As a coaching staff, we probably didn’t talk about how we were going to manage it,” Funkhouser said. “Kind of decompressed from last night. I didn’t know how I’d handle it even this morning when we woke up.”

It turned out to be a celebration, not just of this season, but the last three seasons combined. It all culminated with Edwardsville finishing in third place after defeating the Elmhurst York Dukes 6-1.

“We wanted it to be a celebration, just being together and going out there one more time,” Funkhouser said. “I’m just so proud of them, the way they competed, and how we were able to get everybody in the game. From that standpoint, it was just great to see our guys do what they do.”

After losing the night before to New Lenox Providence Catholic, the Tigers finished the season at 32-9. The Celtics would go on to beat Hoffman Estates Conant in the championship game 4-1.

It was Funkhouser’s 15th season with 30 plus wins.

Against the Dukes, Edwardsville scored the go ahead run in the bottom of the third when Will Downs hit an RBI single to left, scoring Logan Porter from third who had reached via a walk and stole the extra bases.

Downs got picked off at first before Kolten Wright kept things going, reaching on a bunt down the third-base line. He was brought in by a triple from Lucas Krebs. Krebs nearly scored an inside the park homerun, but was called out at the plate. Still, the Tigers led 2-0 after three.

“I saw it go past the left fielder and I just tried to get to third, but then coach waved me home,” Krebs said. “I didn’t get there in time, but it was a great moment.”

“I knew I’d get booed by the fans if I didn’t send him,” Funkhouser joked.

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A game dominated by the Tigers had many of these great moments.

A particularly emotional one for Funkhouser was when he gave senior catcher Lucas Huebner a curtain call.

“This guy here, brought me to tears,” Funkhouser said as he put a hand on Huebner’s shoulder during postgame interviews.

“Taking him out of the game, because he’s been out there and has done it selflessly everyday. State championship game last year, strike three, turns around and shakes the umpire’s hand, says so much about who he is. He means so much to this program and he’s going to be so successful in life,” Funkhouser said.

The Dukes scored their lone run in the top of the fifth when Chris Danko hit an RBI single scoring Noah Hughes to cut the deficit in half.

Edwardsville plated three more runs in the fifth and one more in the sixth that was another one of those great moments.

Last year’s championship game, closing pitcher Alec Marchetto pinch hit for Evan Moore and he proceeded to hit a sacrifice ground ball that scored pinch runner Evan Poynter for the games’ final run.

Chase Wilburn started on the mound for the Tigers and threw the first four innings, earning the win, giving him a 10-0 record for the year. He gave up two hits while striking out five.

Tristan Lance, Ethan Stewart, and Tyler Powell each pitched one inning, combining for four strikeouts. The only run scored while Tristian McMeen was on the mound.

The Tigers outhit York 9-4. The Dukes end their season at 31-11.

It’s the old cliche, only eight Illinois high school baseball get to end their season with a win. Although it wasn’t the win the Tigers were hoping for, it was still a good way to cap off another great season.

“Let’s enjoy playing in this game,” was the message Funkhouser gave to his team beforehand.

“And the guys picked up on that and the way it turned out, that’s what makes the celebration special. It’s supposed to be a celebration of your entire season and everybody practicing, grinding together for the last three weeks.”

A special thanks to our sponsors Gori Law Firm, Edison’s Entertainment Complex, and Play It Again Sports for supporting Riverbender.com’s coverage of Edwardsville Tigers baseball.

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