EAST PEORIA | It was quite the coaching matchup in the second Class 2A softball semifinal on Friday at EastSide Centre.
Beecher head skipper Kevin Hayhurst and Teutopolis head man Rich Niebrugge have combined for a career 664-152 record (.814 winning percentage) in their 12 years apiece at their respective schools.
It was the latter one, however, that finally got over the hump in the postseason in 2014. Teutopolis made its first ever appearance in the state finals this year, and were able to knock off Hayhurst, who has two state titles in his possession, 6-5 thanks to a big fifth-inning comeback by the Wooden Shoes.
“Beecher’s a great team, they’ve got a great coach,” Niebrugge said. “Just watch the way Kevin carries himself, and you know that man knows what he’s doing out there. What a great team and a great program.”
CHECKING THE RULEBOOK: The bottom of the fourth inning almost turned into the ultimate comeback frame for Teutopolis, but it was one call that was overturned that had many scratching their heads.
With two runners on and one out, Teutopolis sophomore Julie Wente hit a groundball to shortstop Isabella Woolslayer, who threw the ball over to first baseman Taylor Johnson. Johnson, however, left the bag too early as she attempted to throw to third base to get one of the base runners for a double play.
First base umpire Les Trotter originally called Wente safe at first, but the runner didn’t hear him. Wente, thinking she was out, started down the first base line toward her team’s dugout before promptly returning to the base after her first base coach told her she was safe.
There was one problem, though, the ball had already returned to the circle.
“Julie had left the bag while the ball was in the circle,” Niebrugge said. “Les calmly explained what had happened. It was a rule, it made sense, and they got the call right.”
PLENTY OF PITCHES: Beecher starting pitcher Sarah Crews might not have gone the distance in the circle if she had been playing baseball instead of softball.
Crews finished her six innings of work with 123 pitches on the day, including 35 in the fifth, and deciding, inning.
Her first batter of the night, Teutopolis second baseman Madison Cowman went seven pitches before Crews grounded out to first, and 15 of the 25 at bats she had went at least five pitches deep.
YOUTH MOVEMENT: The great Beecher vs. Teutopolis semifinal not only showed that both teams are talented now, but also that both teams may have very bright futures.
Out of the 20 players who got an at bat on the day, 15 of them were either freshmen or sophomores.
Beecher had seniors in the Nos. 1, 4, and 6 spots in its lineup, but all of the rest are eligible to return next year.
Teutopolis had just one senior play, no juniors, and the top seven hitters in the Wooden Shoes’ lineup were all sophomores.
WEATHER CONCERNS: As inclement weather is forecast for Central Illinois on Saturday afternoon, there was talk that the games may be played on multiple fields in order to ensure the event will not have to be moved to Sunday.
The talks around EastSide Centre had the Class 1A third-place game beginning at 10 a.m., the 1A title game at 11 on a different field, and then the 2A third-place and title games will begin at noon and 1 p.m., respectively.
Patrons were urged to keep an eye on www.IHSA.org for any schedule changes.