Cougars baseball heads to state playoffs

John Michaels
IVN Contributing Writer

With a 2A State Baseball Tournament berth on the line, the Illinois Valley High School baseball team swept a doubleheader from District 6 rival Bonanza last Friday in Cave Junction. The Cougars are now 13-4 on the year and clinched second place in District 6 with a 9-2 mark in league play. District 6 is only guaranteed two berths in the state tournament, although there will be three “at large” selections that will fill out the 22 team field. With the two wins, I.V. jumped one spot to No. 14 in the 2A baseball rankings by the OSAA this week. The jump in the rankings all but guarantees that Illinois Valley will host the first game in the tournament scheduled for May 20.

No. 88, senior Jozia Williams gets back to third base safely Friday, May 10 at home.
(Photo by Dan Mancuso, Illinois Valley News)

Senior Dylan Beals, fresh off being named OSAA Athlete of the Week for his no-hit performance against Riddle, followed up with a gutsy outing while conquering the Antlers in Friday’s opener. Beals had uncharacteristic control problems, walking seven Bonanza hitters in the five-inning game. However, Beals gave up just one infield hit while striking out 11, as I.V. romped to a 10-0 win.
“This might be the worst game Dylan has pitched this year,” said Cougars coach Jesse Dugas. “He struggled spotting the ball and throwing to his spots today.”
“But Dylan went out there and battled all game long. He didn’t throw in the towel, but just kept attacking the strike zone as best he could. “He wound up giving up just the one hit and fanned a bunch. I will take a shut-out anytime.”
Illinois Valley opened the scoring with three runs in the bottom of the first and added seven runs in the fourth frame to invoke the 10-run rule.
Mike Miller got things started in the initial inning with a lead-off walk. After Beals and Zack Dugas singled, the bases were loaded for Jozia Willias. Williams singled, scoring Miller. But the courtesy runner for Beals was caught in a run-down, resulting in the first out of the inning. Dugas and Williams scored when Bryson Gilmore hit a double, making the score 3-0 in the inning.
Illinois Valley ended the game early with seven runs in the fourth. Beals led off the inning getting hit by a pitch. Dugas and Williams both walked. Jackson Tincher, running for Beals, scored on a balk by the Antlers’ pitcher during Williams at bat. Dugas scored on an error by the Bonanza catcher as Williams was stealing second. Williams scored when Gilmore singled, making the score 6-0. Kegan Russell doubled to center plating Gilmore. Jeremiah Izzo, running for Russell, stole third base and scored when Talen Schaffer singled. Miller walked and both Schaffer and Miller worked their way around the bases via a combination of errors and passed balls, making the score 10-0.
I.V. unleashed 10 hits in the victory. Gilmore led the way going 3-for-3 with a double and three RBIs. Russell went 2-for-3 with a double and one RBI. Beals, Dugas, Williams, Schaffer and Kaiden Green each had one hit in the game. The Cougars also took advantage of wildness from the Antler pitching staff, as IV had 10 batters get on with a walk in addition to Beals’ hit by pitch.
The second game of the doubleheader was much closer for a while as the Illinois Valley rallied from a 6-3 deficit with 13 runs in the fourth to nail down a 16-6 win to complete the sweep.
“I kind of hate ‘Senior Day’ and all the hoopla with it,” said Dugas. “It builds up all sorts of emotions with these kids and sometimes makes it hard to focus on the task at hand. Fortunately, we were able to overcome that, and our guys responded well to the pressure and emotions eventually.”
Similar to the previous week’s game against Riddle, with I.V. giving the visitors plenty of help the Antlers scored five runs in the top of the second. The Cougars surrendered two walks and made a pair of errors in staking Bonanza to the early lead. I.V. answered with single runs in the bottom of the second and third innings, making the score 5-2 going into the fourth frame.
The Antlers manufactured their final run in the top of the fourth with two walks and a single preceding a sacrifice fly that made the score 6-2 going into the bottom of the frame.
Schaffer led off the fourth with a walk, scoring when Miller doubled. Unfortunately, Miller got caught and was put out at the plate on Dugas’ ground ball to the pitcher. Although the Cougars got two more runners on in the fifth, they were unable to score and I.V. was down 6-3 with just six outs left to work with going into the bottom of the sixth.
Illinois Valley took the lead and ended the game with 13 runs in the sixth, walking off with a 10-run rule win. Schaffer got the rally started with a lead-off double and wound up stealing third. Miller followed with a walk, and he stole second. Beals also walked, loading the bases. Dugas was hit by the pitch, plating Schaffer. Williams singled, scoring Miller. Gilmore was hit by a pitch, forcing in Beals and tying the game at 6-6.
Russell walked, forcing in another run, and giving the Cougars the lead. Green singled, Braeden Lapora was hit by a pitch and Schaffer, hitting for the second time in the inning, doubled, knocking in a pair of runs and giving Illinois Valley an 11-6 lead. Miller walked for the second time in the inning. After a fly-out, Dugas singled, Williams was hit by the pitch and Gilmore laced an RBI single. Bonanza’s pitcher issued another walk, and I.V. was leading 15-6 with the bases loaded. Jackson Tincher was hit by the pitch, forcing in the 16th run, ending the game.
I.V. scored 16 runs on just eight hits in the game. The Cougars benefitted from 14 walks and six hit batters from the Antlers pitching staff. Williams went 2-for-4 with a hit by a pitch and scored three times. Miller, Beals, Dugas Gilmore, Tincher and Schaffer had one hit a piece for I.V.

Lapora picked up the win on the mound, in relief of Gilmore. Lapora tossed 2 2/3 innings allowing just one inherited runner to score. He gave up three hits and a walk, while fanning three. Gilmore tossed the first 3 1/3 innings, giving up four earned runs on five hits and six walks. He struck out 4.
Illinois Valley was scheduled to travel to Bonanza for a single game last Tuesday, but that game was rescheduled for this Thursday, May 16. The Cougars were slated to play a single non-league game against Rogue River Wednesday and another non-league game against Brookings. However, as a result of the shift in schedule with Bonanza , the Rogue River game and scheduled game against Brookings have been canceled.
“Yeah, no Rogue River, no Brookings,” said Dugas. “We are gearing up for Bonanza Thursday. We are locked in, and they are on the bubble (for an at-large berth), so we know they are going to come at us with everything they have.”
“Our goal is to go there and play the best baseball we can in anticipation for a state tourney game on Monday. Of course, there is still a lot of baseball to be played,” continued Dugas. “If we move up high enough to get a first round bye, that would be awesome. But we are anticipating playing here on Monday the 20th, in front of our community, on our field.”
“The boys have worked hard and deserve to opportunity to represent the Illinois Valley, and we sure hope to get the opportunity to do it on our field.”