PEORIA (WCIA) — Nerves got the best of LeRoy in its first trip to state for the Class 1A state semifinal at Louisville Slugger Complex. Back-to-back state champ Illini Bluffs scored seven runs by the 2nd inning, putting the Panthers in a hole too big to climb out of, in a 10-0 run rule five inning game Friday afternoon.

“Our defense has been a really big strength of ours this year and I think today we kind of were a little nervous and let our defense kind of throw away the game for us,” LeRoy junior pitcher Haley Cox said. “We also didn’t swing the bat as well as we were hoping to do tomorrow I think just a refresh will help us tomorrow.”

“They’re such a tough group and they’re resilient and they are the closest group I’ve ever coached and they just genuinely care about one another,” LeRoy head coach Doug Hageman said. “I have no doubt they’ll come back tomorrow because it’s a chance to play a one and two teams in 1A and a chance to finish with a win and one more game together. I have no doubt we’ll get a great effort.”

Cox entered the game for the Panthers (32-7) in the second inning, despite not pitching in a game for the past two weeks. She was able to keep the game scoreless until the 5th, when the Tigers tacked on three more to end the game early.

“I think our mindset is just there’s no where to go but up from here and I think we can pull out a win,” LeRoy shortstop Morgan Fleming said.

Now LeRoy will try to turn it around for its game Saturday at 9 a.m. against Goreville, in hopes to bring home a third place trophy. The Blackcats lost to St. Bede 4-1 in the other semifinal game on Friday.