WHEATFIELD | It was Zac Ryan against the world.
Andrean was clinging to a one-run lead in the bottom of the eighth inning against Hanover Central in the championship game of Class 3A Kankakee Valley Sectional Saturday night.
Ryan fanned Hanover Riley Welch with the bases loaded to preserve a 7-6 victory, the Niners 12th straight sectional crown and 24th overall.
“Zac Ryan was awesome,” Andrean coach Dave Pishkur said. “He didn’t have his best stuff. He fields his position so well, and he comes up with big hits, steals bases.
“He was dead in that last inning, but who are you going to give the ball to?”
Ryan threw 128 pitches, struck out nine and went 3-for-5 at the plate with a triple, two RBIs and the winning run.
“If it had gone to the ninth, I definitely would’ve been out there,” he said. “I wouldn’t have given that up.”
After Hanover (23-6) tagged Ryan for four runs in the third to take a 5-1 lead, Andrean (27-2-1) answered back with four in the top of the fourth.
Hanover took a 6-5 lead in the bottom of the fourth and led until Andrean knotted the game at 6-6 in the sixth, where it stood until the eighth inning. The Niners rallied with two outs when Ryan walked, stole second base and scored on a single by Nick Podkul to set up the wild finish.
“This is a special team,” Ryan said. “A team that no matter what, we just fight, so any player on our team could’ve come up with that hit. It‘s not just us two.”
Andrean advances to play Griffith on Saturday in the Plymouth Regional.
“It was a real good battle on our part, but I’m not going to take anything away from Hanover,” Pishkur said. “They faced a kid who’s going to Georgia Tech next year and put up six runs on him.”
Dan Stum went 3-for-4 to pace the Wildcats and pitched into the eighth inning.
“I’m proud of them for the way they fought,” Hanover coach Doug Nelson said. “As the game went on, their kid got better. He was reaching back, getting another gear. We kept fighting, scrapping and finding ways to get outs.
“The bases loaded there to end the game, it‘s just baseball.”
Andrean's 4-3 semifinal win over Kankakee Valley proved to be the last game for 25-year Kougars coach Doug Greenlee.
“It’s my last game at K.V.,” said Greenlee, who wouldn’t elaborate any further on why he won’t be retained as coach.
Greenlee, who will remain as athletic director at K.V., was proud of how his kids battled. The Kougars (10-19) lead 3-1 in the fifth before the Niners tied it in the bottom half. Andrean won it the bottom of the seventh with a walk-off base hit.
"We were right there and we get beat in the bottom of the seventh. They battled, and like I told them in the locker room, I’m very proud of them,” said Greenlee, who won his 500th career game this season. “Andrean is a top flight team that could go all the way.
“They’ve ended our season probably 15 times.”
Greenlee, who’s been a coach for 28 years total, coached nine North All Stars at K.V.