Jacksonville Routt’s Dalton Brown (8) and Brady Turner (17) celebrate after defeating Father McGivney 4-1 in Monday’s super-sectional at Lincoln Land Community College. (Photos by Brad Piros)

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – Last year, the Father McGivney baseball team ran into a brick wall in 2023 MLB Draft pick Dominic Voegele and Columbia in the Class 2A sectional final.

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At that time, the two teams were ranked number one and number two in their class.

The Griffins were in an awfully familiar spot this year.

McGivney headed up to Lincoln Land Community College on Monday and saw a spitting image of themselves in Jacksonville Routt Catholic with a Class 1A super-sectional title on the line.

Both teams came in with 30-plus wins and were once again ranked one and two in their class according to Max Preps.

“They’ve got a great team, and they’re mirror images of us, and I think they’d say the same about us,” Father McGivney head coach Chris Erwin said about his opposition.

A game tied at 1-1 after six innings would eventually go to extras. The Rockets used a three-run eighth inning to go on and win 4-1, earning a trip to the state tournament later this weekend.

It will be Routt’s second trip to state and its first since 2008 when they won under head coach Bob Lonergan with a 25-4 record.

McGivney was trying to get back to the tournament where they finished runners-up in 2021. It was the Griffins' second appearance in a super-sectional game.

McGivney struck first and struck early in the bottom of the first when Justin Terhaar reached on an error, allowing Drew Kleinheider to score from third and take a quick 1-0 lead.

The lefty Ben Sink started on the mound to face a Jacksonville batting order with eight left-handed batters. He did well early and went three-up, three-down in the second.

“I thought he threw a phenomenal game,” Erwin said about Sink. “You cannot ask for anything better against a good-hitting ball club with eight lefties in the lineup. Sink threw his butt off.”

Sink finished a five-inning outing with five strikeouts, two hits, and one earned run.

McGivney could’ve blown the game open in the second but stranded the bases loaded.

It would end up coming back to bite the Griffins.

“I just wish we could have scored a couple more, not that we had a whole lot of opportunities to, but I wish we would have scored more in the first few innings,” Erwin said.

The game’s equalizer didn’t come until the top of the sixth when Bryson Mossman took one over the right-field fence for his first home run of the season.

That was Sink’s last action as he was replaced by right-hander Mason Holmes. He immediately got into trouble and had the bases loaded but a popup to the catcher and a long flyout got him out of the jam.

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McGivney had two chances to try and plate the game-winning run and it seemed like they had walked it off in the seventh.

Gerald Myatt hit a leadoff single, moved to second on a wild pitch, and then was batted over to third by Kannon Kamp. With the game-winning run on third, Kleinheider hit one into shallow left field where Jacksonville’s Jace Lautemann made an impressive game-saving diving catch to end the inning.

In that moment, Erwin thought his team had the game won.

“I did. I thought that was the game-winner,” he said.

“He was only going to be able to dive. Honestly, I really thought that we were going to get the ball down and that was the game right there. It’s disappointing because it would have been the right guy to knock in the winning run.”

It seemed like Lautemann got a late jump to the fly ball and had slightly misjudged it, but he sprawled out to make the diving catch.

It turns out that baseball is a game of inches.

“An inch, not even a foot, an inch, and Drew drives in the game-winning run and we’re celebrating instead of them,” Erwin said.

Lautemann wasn’t done either.

With Holmes back out on the mound, Conrad Charpentier hit a leadoff single and then Brady Turner was walked. With two outs, Lautemann came back up and smacked a two-run triple. Talon Thompson then brought him home with an RBI single to make it 4-1.

Eli Olson stepped out onto the bump to close out the game for Jacksonville and he did so successfully against the middle of McGivney’s lineup.

Routt improves to 32-7 on the season and will take on Ottawa Marquette on Friday, May 31 at Dozer Park in the first of two Class 1A state semifinals.

McGivney closes the season at 34-5, a fourth straight 30-plus win season.

“It’s hard to get 30 [wins] one year but to get 30 four years in a row, I’m just super proud,” Erwin said.

“I just told the seniors that I’m super proud of what they’ve done for the program, what they’ve done for the community, and the school, to put those four years together is pretty special. It would have been nice to cap it off with going back to state, but it is what it is, that’s why you play these games. Sometimes they just don’t work out.”

McGivney’s class of 2024 left with a four-year record of 134 wins, and 19 losses.

Erwin thought that Monday’s super-sectional was worthy of being played for a state title.

“I think it was a championship game, I really do,” he said.

“I felt that way for two years now, the two teams were number one and two in the state and that’s the game we lost. We’ve got to find a way to get a little bit better. We’ve got to find a way to get through that last game and get up to that state tournament again because I believe we have a good as chance as anybody to win it.”

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