In what was essentially a mini-Little Illini Conference Tournament last week, the co-Little Illini Conference regular season champions held serve and earned a bigger piece of hardware in the process.
Robinson High School's baseball team won a pair of games over fellow LIC schools this week at the IHSA Class 2A Newton Regional that featured five LIC schools in the field, culminating with Saturday (May 18)'s 9-4 win over host Newton in the championship game.
It was the second win in three games for the Maroons against the Eagles, as Robinson won the initial meeting April 13 (11-8), while Newton won the rematch and handed RHS its only conference loss May 8 (3-1).
"One and done baseball is intense and we knew that Newton was going to be a tough team to take out," RHS head coach Reggie Truitt said. "They started playing really well towards the end of the season, including a conference win against us. We didn't overlook them this time. We were serious and we were on point. It turned out to be a really fun game and our crowd was impressive. We had a lot of support from the community there."
Saturday's game got off to a bit of an ominous start for the Maroons, as Newton hit a two-run home run three batters into the game to take an early 2-0 lead.
However, the Maroons would answer in the bottom of the inning, as Brayden Childress doubled with one out and Levi Hodge followed with a two-out, two-run home run to tie the game at 2-2.
Robinson took the lead for good in the second inning, as Kade Lassen and Childress delivered consecutive RBI singles with two outs for a 4-2 edge. The Maroons added a run in the third, as Hodge led off the inning with a walk and later scored on a wild pitch with two outs to make the score 5-2.
The score remained that way until the sixth, when Newton plated a run to close the gap to 5-3, but Robinson got a huge double play to end the threat and then countered with four runs in the bottom of the sixth to put the game out of reach. Elliott Stifle and Lassen opened the inning with back-to-back doubles to make the score 6-3, then after a balk, Lassen scored on a sacrifice fly by Childress to push the lead to 7-3. With two outs, Hodge and Cade Slaughter singled, then Logan Sexton delivered a base hit to plate Hodge for an 8-3 advantage. The Maroons would then pull a double-steal to plate their final run and cap off the four-run inning.
Newton would push across a run in the top of the seventh, but it was too little, too late, as the Maroons held on for the win.
"I thought we played a good game throughout," Truitt said. "Our pitcher (Childress) gave up a two-run home run in the first inning, but then settled in and dominated the next four. We stayed clean until the sixth inning, then found ourselves in a tight situation. Elliott (Stifle) got them to hit something on the ground with the bases loaded and we had a huge 4-6-3 double play to get out of the sixth. Newton had a bad bottom of the sixth and we tacked on the insurance runs."
Hodge led RHS at the plate with a home run, two singles, three runs scored and two runs batted in, while Lassen doubled, singled, knocked in two runs and scored a run. Sexton posted a pair of singles, a run batted in and a run scored, Childress doubled and drove in a run, Stifle doubled, Slaughter and Ethan Shidler added a base hit apiece, Riley Simpson scored two runs and Cole Johnson and Owen Austin each scored a run.
Childress earned the win on the mound, allowing three runs on six hits, while walking three and striking out 11 in five innings. Stifle went the rest of the way, giving up a run on four hits, walking one and striking out two in two innings.