MIDLOTHIAN | Illiana Christian pitcher Jack Hillegonds made it clear during Saturday's Class 3A Bremen Regional championship game that the term "sophomore jinx" is not applicable to him.
Hillegonds' all-around performance served as the linchpin for the Vikings, who defeated Rich Central 8-3 to secure their first regional title since 2009. Illiana will play Lemont at 4 p.m. Thursday in one semifinal of the Lincoln-Way West Sectional.
Vikings coach Dan Gibson was quick to praise his youngest player's pitching effort against the Olympians.
"He toughed it out, and I'm glad he had confidence," Gibson said of Hillegonds. "He showed a lot of composure on the mound."
Hillegonds, who scattered four hits and struck out six in five innings of work, said that possessing confidence is important for any pitcher, no matter what the situation.
"If you have it and you hit your spots, (a team) can beat anyone," he said.
Hillegonds' offensive abilities also proved valuable to Illiana (18-15) as well. He finished 2-for-3 on the day and drove in three runs.
However, Hillegonds was just one of the Vikings' bright spots on Saturday. Another was second baseman/pitcher Lucas Miedema, who led off the game with a solo homer.
Miedema said the homer allowed Illiana to set the tone early.
"It was a great confidence builder (for us)," he said. "It takes down the other team and gets in their heads."
Miedema replaced a fatigued Hillegonds on the mound in the sixth and struck out two. He said that it was necessary to maintain the standard set by Hillegonds during the previous five innings.
"I knew we needed strikes when I came in, and when I did that, we were set," Miedema said.