Playing in Peoria is a dream come true for the St. Joseph Middle School Baseball team.
The Panthers’ earned their spot in the IESA Class 2A state tournament by defeating Holy Cross on Sept. 18, 12-0 in the regional semifinal game. On Sept. 20, it was more of the same as they defeated Westville 12-0.
Head coach Josh Haley said it was special that this team got to started what they finished last year when the 2020 won their regional championship but didn’t have a state series due to COVID.
“This 7th/8th-grade group is close and it’s been a neat experience watching leadership qualities grow,” Haley said.. “They like to be around each other and compete together, so it makes it special when they get rewarded with a trip to Peoria. Having a son on the team, I’ve seen many of these players at a young age at camps, summer ball, or in the community, so it’s a fun experience to go through players I’ve seen grow up together.”
To prepare for their trip to Peoria, the Panthers have been preparing their pitchers.
“The postseason is spread out for the first two weeks, then we play three games in less than 24 hours, so we will have multiple pitchers ready,” Haley said..
The team spent Wednesday going over a scouting report to prepare for Pleasant Plains, who they face today at 4:30 p.m. and Thursday they had batting practice on the field.
“ We also have the opportunity to have a couple of team meals and some downtime together where they can enjoy this experience,” Haley said.
Haley said a strong baseball tradition at the middle school level is providing a strong foundation for the St. Joseph-Ogden Baseball Program, which he also coaches.
“Both the PVO and SJ teams are playing in State on Friday and both have had a tremendous season,” Haley said. “Both schools continue to provide a solid foundation for the Spartan Baseball Program. A lot of these kids play together in the summer, so there is excitement in the baseball program. It’s a solid foundation because our community is filled with kids that love baseball, work hard, and compete.”