By Anthony Jones
Triad Middle School athletics saw a great deal of success this past week as they brought home a pair of SIJHSAA trophies in baseball and softball. The baseball team finished as state champions, following a back and forth affair with the Marion Wildcats.
Their state championship game win was a continuation of a dominant postseason for the baseball Crusaders. Going back to September 22, the squad picked up an 11-1 win over Collinsville. Playing for their Regional championship the next day, Triad breezed to a 10-0 victory over Carriel as pitcher Ben Sink threw a perfect game with 16 strikeouts.
The Crusaders continued their dominant offensive and defensive performances in the next two rounds as they downed both Wesclin and Mascoutah 11-0 to advance to the state championship.
Triad’s opponent in the title game was Marion Middle School. Marion also had been dominant in the postseason, winning their four games dating back to their Regional sem-finals by a combined score of 44-5.
When the two teams finally met on the field, it was Marion who struck first as they built a 3-0 lead in the first inning. Not accustomed to playing from behind, the Crusaders knotted things up at 3-3 after another inning of action, thanks to a single from Tyler Thompson that drove the tying run in.
The 3-0 scoring pattern continued in the third inning, as Marion once again snatched up the lead at 6-3. In a crucial spot in the fourth inning with two outs, Triad’s Brayden Riney stepped to the plate and scored a pair of runners to give his team their first lead of the day at 7-6.
For the fourth time of the game, the lead was taken away in the top of the fifth as the Wildcats took an 8-6 lead. Triad’s Tyler Jacobs came onto the mound to finish the inning in relief of Nolan Keller, where he struck out a pair of runners to leave a runner on third.
Battling back once again in the bottom of the fifth, the Crusaders began to rally. Thompson delivered his second game tying RBI of the game as he hit a double to tie things up at 8-8. Grant Caravia and Keller followed him up with successful bunt attempts to take a 10-8 lead.
Not letting up, Triad continued to score as Caravia stole home and Riney delivered another big hit to move their lead to 12-8. Thompson put the icing on the cake of a dominant inning as he once again produced an RBI to snatch a 13-8 advantage.
Ultimately, their lead would be the first to stick as Marion failed to score again, crowning Triad as the SIJHSAA Class L State Champions. The win moved the Crusaders to 21-3 on the year and they were also the first Triad team to finish with a perfect conference record of 10-0.