SENECA | At the beginning of the season, Beecher baseball coach Brandon DuBois asked his team about their goals for the year.
The responses varied, but one stuck out to the third-year coach.
“With the level of talent we have, we said our goal was to do well in the postseason,” DuBois said. “Well, some guys defined that as going to state.”
Nearly 2 1/2 months later, the Bobcats are a win away from reaching their ultimate goal.
Despite entering the postseason with a losing record, Beecher beat El Paso-Gridley 5-4 in eight innings to win the Class 2A Seneca Sectional championship on Saturday. The Bobcats advanced to the Benedictine Super-Sectional where they will play Lise (20-10) at 1 p.m. Monday.
After losing the lead in the top of the seventh inning, Beecher’s Dallas Saddler hit the game-winning RBI single with one out in the bottom of the eighth to lift the Bobcats to a 5-4 eight-inning win.
A win Monday would advance the Bobcats to their first state finals.
“It’s a little surreal,” DuBois said of being so close to state. “Now we’re that much closer to the goal.”
Getting to the super-sectional didn’t come without some drama.
Down 3-1 in the top of the fifth, Beecher’s Mike Takacs hit an RBI single in the bottom of the fifth to cut the Titans’ lead to 3-2.
The Bobcats then took the lead with two runs in the bottom of the sixth. Third baseman Mike Pignatiello scored to tie the game and center fielder Nick Burkhardt scored to give Beecher the lead.
After Takacs threw the first six innings, reliever Zach Aring entered in the top of the seventh to close out the game.
However, he hit the first batter he faced in Jordan Matzke, who later scored to tie the game at 4.
Down, the Bobcats were not out.
After Aring escaped a bases-loaded jam in the seventh and struck out the side in the eighth, Burkhardt singled to start the bottom of the eighth.
With Burkhardt at third base three batters later, Saddler hit the game-winning single to center field.
“I knew they had to pitch to him, so I talked to Dallas and told him, ‘You’ve got to hit something hard on the ground or you have to elevate something in the air because Burkhardt at third base is a really quick runner,’” DuBois said. “He went after the first two pitches in the zone, and then he smashed one up the middle.”
Despite allowing the game-tying hit in the seventh, Aring picked up his second sectional win. In two innings pitched, he allowed one earned run on two hits while striking out four.
Pignatiello had two hits, scored a run and had a RBI for Beecher, which advanced to its first super-sectional since 2005 and to the Elite 8 for the first time in school history.
“Our first 10 games this season were canceled, and (when we did play) some of us were — I don’t want to say going through the motions the first few games — but there wasn’t the edge that they have now,” DuBois said. “I’m not sure if it’s the adrenaline rush from the postseason or what, but I’ll take it.”