JOLIET (WCIA) — The glamour of playing at state quickly wore off for Effingham baseball Friday morning. The Flaming Hearts are making their first appearance at state since 1942 and fell behind early, with Grayslake Central scoring runs in the first, third, fourth and fifth innings. The Rams held the Hearts to just two hits on the day as well, posting a 9-1 Class 3A semifinal win at Duly Health and Care Field.

“We couldn’t find a timely hit, balls that we did put in play were right to a lot of guys,” Effingham head coach Curran McNeely said. “It was one of those days.”

“Some days, balls go our way, you see it better than others,” Effingham senior shortstop Jack Harper said. “It just wasn’t our day today.”

The Rams defense is part of what stifled the Effingham offense, no hitting the hearts through five innings. Now they’ll look to bounce back in the third place game, guaranteed the school’s first state baseball trophy in program history.

“We talked about it last week, Effingham hasn’t been here in 81 years, since 1942,” Harper said. “To be part of that, for all of us, is special. All of us seniors will be able to walk into the gym for the rest of our lives and see 2023 up there on that banner. That’s really something special to be a part of.”

Effingham will face Sycamore in the Class 3A third place game Saturday morning at 9 a.m. after the Spartans lost to defending state champ Nazareth Academy in the other semifinal match-up Friday.