PEORIA | This weekend is sure to go down as a memorable one for Crete Illinois Lutheran baseball head coach Mark Kjenstad.
Illinois Lutheran beat Argenta-Oreana 1-0 in a Class 1A state semifinal on Friday afternoon, and will make its first championship game appearance against Bluford Webber at about 11:30 a.m. today.
On Sunday morning, Kjenstad and wife Jessica will fly to the Philippines to receive their adopted daughter, 19-month old Reah.
“We were still in the regular season when we got the call that we could go pick her up, and you can’t be in two places at once so we decided to book our flight the day after the season ends, regardless whether we made it here or not,” Kjenstad said.
He and Jessica are scheduled to leave Chicago at 10:30 a.m. Sunday.
The one-way flight is scheduled to take about 16 hours. The adoption process took about four years.
“We’ve waited a long time for this,” Kjenstad said. “Baseball has been the one thing that’s kind of kept my mind off the wait.”
Reah will be the second adopted child for the couple. Their son, five-year old Ryen, also was born in the Philippines.
NONE TO ONE: Illinois Lutheran will play for the 1A state title in its first finals appearance in baseball.
The Chargers (26-2) already have eclipsed by five the program's record for wins, established during a 21-8 season in 2012.
Kjenstad, a South Dakota native, is in his 15th season as coach. Illinois Lutheran went 0-9 in his first season, in 2000.
FAMILY AFFAIR: Three sets of brothers are included on Illinois Lutheran’s 15-player roster.
The brothers are senior outfielder Chris Falk and sophomore first baseman Evan Falk, senior second baseman Collin Borns and freshman outfielder Cameron Borns, and senior outfielder Evan Henschel and sophomore first baseman Trevor Henschel.
Lutheran has an actual high school enrollment of 110 students. Most are from Crete, Steger and Chicago Heights.
TITLE FOE: Title game opponent Bluford Webber also will be playing for its first state championship.
Webber senior Jordan Wheeler threw 175 pitches and got the complete-game victory in a 5-4 win in 10 innings over New Athens in the first 1A semifinal on Friday. Wheeler also was celebrating his 19th birthday.
“(Wheeler) looked at me in the 10th and told me he’s not coming out,” Webber coach Sam Root said.
BY THE NUMBERS: Webber has an actual enrollment of 130 students. Argenta-Oreana’s enrollment of 294 is the largest among 1A state semifinalists and one below the cutoff for Class 2A, which this season for baseball is 295 students.
Freeburg has 604 students, most among 2A semifinalists and six fewer than the 610 cutoff for Class 3A.
REMEMBER WHEN: New Athens will face Argenta-Oreana in the 1A third-place game at 9 a.m. today.
New Athens made its first state finals appearance in the 1948 single-class tournament, played at Caterpillar Field in East Peoria.
Among the New Athens players that season was junior outfielder Dorrel Norman Herzog, who later picked up the nickname “Whitey” and went on to manage the Cardinals and Royals in the major leagues.