LANSING | Josh VanBeek's curveball was very good Friday. Perhaps just a bit too good.
"His curve was biting today, to say the least," VanBeek's fellow senior and sometime catcher Jordan Davis said. "It's his out pitch, but it can be tough to block."
In Friday's 3A Illiana Christian Regional semifinal at Illiana, in which the Vikings played visitors to "home team" Bremen, VanBeek's breaker was good enough to fan five Braves over the first two innings — on his way to seven for the game. But he also uncorked three wild pitches, on his way to six.
Three of those wild pitches helped Bremen to its runs in a 3-1 win. The third-seeded Braves (23-12) advance to Saturday's 10 a.m. title game opposite No. 1 Rich Central, while second-seeded Illiana closes at 16-13.
"I'm happy with our year," Vikings coach Dan Gibson said. "We started out 2-8, and ended up with a winning record.
"I felt good about our chances against Bremen. I saw them last week, and they reminded me a lot of my team. I said then it was going to come down to execution."
With both VanBeek (4-3) and Bremen's Sean Grant (6-3) dealing, runs were hard to come by.
"I was very impressed with the way both pitchers handled themselves in a big game," Bremen coach Mike Cline said. "It was a 3-1 high school baseball game that could have gone either way. That's a very, very good team over there — well-coached, doesn't make mistakes. Illiana Christian is a class act."
Still, Gibson lamented a wasted opportunity in the first, when Tyler Sroczynski's leadoff single and stolen base were erased by a missed bunt attempt that ended with Sroczynski being caught off second base.
"We can't get a bunt down, get a pickoff, lose a scoring opportunity," Gibson said. "Then Davis follows it with a single …"
Bremen scored in its half of the first on a leadoff infield single, a stolen base, a wild pitch and the first of Shamari Warner's two run-producing hits. His first-inning double and fifth-inning single, the latter plating a runner who'd walked and moved up on an errant pick attempt and a wild pitch, came on nearly identical pitches — chin-high fastballs.
"I left them over the heart of the plate," VanBeek said, generously. "They were up, but I've heard (the Braves) teach to see the ball up and go from there."
Illiana managed a run in the fourth, when Joey Skrbina's line single up the middle scored VanBeek, who'd walked. But, the Vikings couldn't otherwise come up with a clutch hit, stranding eight runners over the last four innings as Grant went the distance.