NORMAL (WCIA) — Mt. Pulaski lost more games Thursday at Duffy Bass Field in Normal than they have all season, but they still have reason to keep their head up. The Toppers head home fourth place at their first trip to the 1A Baseball State Finals.
The Hilltoppers lost in the semifinal 11-5 to South Central, and lost 6-2 to Newark in the fourth place game. Head Coach Joel Washko says even though they came up short of their goal, this season is still one to celebrate.
“It means a lot, it’s the first time our program has every been here, so it’s a big deal, losing in the semi finals doesn’t change how proud I am of these guys, it doesn’t change what our accomplishments have been up to this point,” said Washko.
“It’s just an amazing feeling, to finally get where we worked our whole career for,” says senior Drew Martin. “Especially going out with the seniors on this senior note, it was awesome. We got to a place where Mt. Pulaski had never been before. Only three other teams got to be in this situation and I wouldn’t trade it for the world.”
All season, baseball wasn’t the only thing on the minds of the players. A parent of a player was diagnosed with cancer midseason, and since then the Toppers have worn pink sleeves in support.
“We have each others backs. When we heard about the news it was just devastating,” says senior Grant Davis. “It shows how close we are together, not just a group of guys who play baseball together. We’re more a family because of how small school we all, and we all love each other.”
Mt. Pulaski graduates just two seniors. Washko hopes this experience propels them next season, and helps get them back to State.
Springfield also made an appearance in the 3A State Semifinal, where they put up and exciting come-from-behind victory to beat St. Laurence 6-2 to head to the title game for the third time in program history. The Senators also took home the State Championship, beating Prairie Ridge in the title game.