PIASA – It’s been nothing short of a fantastic season so far for the Southwestern baseball team.

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It’s reminiscent of the Piasa Birds’ season in 2015.

In 2015, Piasa won the South Central Conference title outright with a 9-0 record. The Birds did that again in 2024.

In 2015, Piasa set a program record with a 26-win season. The Birds matched those 26 wins last season finishing 26-11 and did it again in 2024 after a 7-0 triumph at East Alton-Wood River last Friday.

In 2015, Piasa won a regional, during a stretch from 2013-2017 where the Piasa Birds won four regional titles in five seasons. 2017 was the last time it happened, and this season, anything less would seem to be a disappointment.

“I don’t think there’s any pressure,” longtime Piasa head coach Brian Hanslow said after a 5-3 season-finale loss against Marquette Catholic. “They know what’s up there and they know what they’re playing for. They put the work in and we’ve had a great year.”

The Piasa Birds close the regular season at 26-7 in 2024. In Hanslow’s 28th season as head coach, it was his 20th with a winning record.

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Southwestern earned the No. 1 seed in the top half of the Pleasant Plains Sectional. Their postseason begins on Wednesday against No. 7-seeded Virden North Mac in a Class 2A regional semifinal.

Going back to 2002, Piasa is 11-0 against the Panthers. The Birds won this year’s contest by a score of 3-1 back on May 6.

Since the pandemic, Piasa has been knocked out in the first round of the playoffs each time, twice by New Berlin and once by SCC rivals Gillespie.

Gillespie (23-8), seeded No. 2 in the bottom half of the Pleasant Plains Sectional, would have to run the table, and more than likely beat top-seeded Pleasant Plains (27-7) along the way to set up a dream sectional championship game between the Miners and Piasa Birds.

Southwestern would have to get through some tough opponents as well like No. 3 seeded Williamsville (16-13) or No. 2 seeded Sacred Heart-Griffin (20-9) in a possible sectional semifinal.

Hanslow called Monday’s loss to Marquette a wake-up call.

“That’s the worst game we’ve played probably in about three weeks,” he said. “Maybe we need the wake-up call, I don’t know. We’ve been coasting a little bit and I just didn’t see a lot of fire in them today either.”

The Piasa Birds had won six straight heading into Monday’s contest and would have loved to go into the postseason with all that momentum, but Hanslow feels like his team can channel the loss and learn from it.

“We’ve got nine seniors. Now it’s do or die. It’s ‘Do you want to turn in your uniform?’ We’ve got to turn the switch on and we’ve got to get after it.”

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