No. 8 Rantoul (16-12) vs. Mt. Zion (24-5)
4:30 p.m., Wednesday
Champaign Central HS
Rantoul has swooned of late, losing four consecutive games to end the season. It’s a far cry from the terrific baseball they had been playing the previous two-three weeks, but it’s not too late to get a fresh start.
Now that the Eagles got past No. 9 Centennial at Wabash Park, a matchup with a supremely talented Braves team awaits, as a combination of Adam Crites, Nolan Roseman, Chad Vermillion and Hayden Cargo will be expected to carry Rantoul on the mound.
In one of its final games of the regular season, Mt. Zion took down Class 4A power New Trier with a 7-1 victory in a nonconference win Saturday.
The Braves won the Apollo Conference with an 11-1 record.
The winner advances to the regional championship game at 1 p.m. Saturday against either No. 4 Champaign Central or No. 7 Mahomet-Seymour.
Keys to win
Forget about The Streak
It was impressive. There’s no doubt about it. But winning seven games in a row and nine of 10 in late April/early May is irrelevant now. The Eagles have lost four straight to close the season — also irrelevant. The postseason is here and now, and everyone is 0-0 (Full disclosure: We simply don’t care that that phrase is cliché).
Rantoul’s lack of aggressiveness on first pitches was a bugaboo early in the year, but the Eagles’ assertiveness during the seven-game win streak was impressive. If the Mt. Zion pitchers can get Rantoul back to its bad habits, the Braves will be advancing to Saturday’s regional title game.
Players to watch
It would be easy to place Jones, Nolan Roseman or John Frerichs in this spot during the season’s most important games. But we will place the Rantoul catcher in this spot. All three are the Eagles’ top on-field leaders, and Jones boasts a .357 average with 33 RBI and 16 runs scored.
The Danville Area Community College-bound senior was hitting .323 with just 12 strikeouts as of May 16. Others to keep an eye on: Jonah Smith (1.62 earned run average, 55 strikeouts), Trevor Durand (2.12 ERA, 39 Ks), Bradley Reynolds (.439, 18 RBI, 14 steals), Daniel Chausse (.345) and Mason Lutz (.288, 3 HRs, 23 RBI).
Contact Zack Carpenter at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @ZackCarpenter11.