GIBSON CITY — In a close game with multiple opportunities to take advantage, Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley couldn’t take advantage, as the Falcons fell to Central Catholic 1-0 in the class 2A regional championship game.
Jonathan Naour struck out eight batters and only allowed one hit as the Saints (13-18) claimed their first regional title since 2016 with the win at a windy field in Gibson City.
“Their kid did a really good job,” GCMS head coach Dustin White said. “He put us off-balance, threw a lot of curveballs, and we just sat there and took some. I thought we had opportunities in hitters’ counts today and just didn’t do anything with it.”
The Falcons’ only hit came in the fourth inning on a single by Cade Elliott. GCMS batters only reached base five times in the game — three by Hunter Brewer via walks, and Ethan Garard reached on an error in the fifth inning. Four batters were also left stranded.
Central Catholic picked up its lone run in the third inning as Naour scored after first reaching base on a wild pitch, then being driven in on a double by Patrick Mulcahey. He got things going in the top of the first for the Saints, reaching on a double before being left stranded.
Naour’s run-scoring play was preceded by Gage Juarez hitting a single.
In the second inning, Patrick Namoff had a double for Central Catholic. GCMS went 0-for-3 in the inning, not having a runner reach base until Brewer’s next at-bat in the fourth inning.
GCMS showed some life in the fourth inning. Brewer started things out with a walk, but was thrown out at second base on a potential 6-4-3 double play, though Elliott beat the throw to first on the only hit of the game for GCMS. He was left on base as Layne Harden struck out next. Central Catholic had one hit in the fourth off a single from Ben Winslow.
Central Catholic went 0-for-3 in the top half of the fifth inning, and GCMS had an opportunity. Ethan Garard reached base on an error in the outfield and took second on a wild pitch, but nothing materialized after Josh Nuss hit a grounder to second to close out the inning.
In the seventh inning, Nick Fisher and Reece Seidel reached base back-to-back before advancing a base. Nuss then made a crucial catch at shortstop to close out the top half of the seventh, which could have led to a game-winning opportunity had it materialized.
Unfortunately, Harden had a pop-up to second before Wade Burton and Braden Roesch each struck out, ending the Falcons’ chance at their first regional title since 2006.
“That’s the bad part of the game,” White said after the game. “We’ve had a couple times this year where we felt like we had opportunities to get on base and drive some people in, and we just popped everything up. One of them, we hit hard, and the other one we got ourselves down and got a little nervous and then we over thought it.
White credited pitcher Nathan Garard with having a good outing on the day, notwithstanding the way the game ended.
“It’s been a really great year for him, and to go out this way because the offense couldn’t help you out was kind of a bad situation, but that’s the name of the game,” he said.
Central Catholic advanced to its own sectional next week. GCMS finished 19-5 in perhaps the best record of any baseball team in Gibson City history, also with a conference championship.
Five Falcons will graduate Saturday evening: Nuss, Harden, Garard, Andrew Laughery and Seth Breeden. White said the group transformed themselves from freshman year and made the program into a contender like it was a few years ago.
“They will be sorely missed around here because they’re such good kids,” he explained. “It makes losing like this much more difficult because we want to be around them so much. They got us back to where the program had been years before, and kind of turned the corner so hopefully that can continue.”
Bloomington Central Catholic 1, GCMS 0
BCC 001 000 0 -- 1 6 1
GCMS 000 000 0 -- 0 0 2
W -- Naova, 7 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 8 K, 3 BB. L -- Nathan Garard, 7 IP, 6 H, R, 0 ER, 6 K, BB.
BCC -- Juarez 1-4. Naova R. Mulcahey 2-3, 2 2B, RBI. Glowacki 1-3. Namoff 1-3, 2B. Winslow 1-3.
GCMS (19-5) -- Hunter Brewer 3 BB.