It was 15 years ago that the Quad City 76ers earned their first Iowa Amateur Baseball Association state championship.
Up until now, it is also the 76ers' only such title. That is a status they hope to change as the 2022 IABA State Tournament gets underway Saturday afternoon.
The local semi-pro club will get to open its tournament run on its home diamond at Rock Island's historic Douglas Park, taking on Iowa's Red Top squad at 1 p.m. in the first of two games at Douglas.
At 3 p.m., the Whiteside County Wildcats meet the Norway (Iowa) Bandits. Those two games are the only ones scheduled for Rock Island, with the rest of the tournament — including Sunday's championship game — to be played in Williamsburg, Iowa.
"The guys are excited about it, and they enjoy playing (at Douglas Park)," said QC manager Kevin Corrigan. "They feel comfortable there. Before rehabbing Douglas Park five years ago, we were playing on the road for two straight weeks."
People are also reading…
After finishing second at the last two IABA state gatherings in 2019 and ’21 (the 2020 tournament was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic), the 76ers hope an early taste of home cooking is the recipe to finishing the summer as state champions.
The bulk of last year's Quad City team that lost 5-4 to the Walford Wild Hogs in the IABA state title game is back, including five holdovers from the ’19 runner-up squad — outfielders Erik Hoffman and Eric Maffie, infielder Brooks Sunny and pitchers Ike Roush and Conner Sharp.
"There is a hunger after we came so close last year," said Corrigan, who noted that Maffie is unavailable this weekend. The former Moline standout will join his teammates at the University of St. Francis' preseason football camp.
"We started the season with 21 guys in May, and we've still got the same 21, which is rare. They truly and genuinely get along with each other. At the same time, there is pressure. It's a single-elimination tournament. One loss and we're done."
Losing has been rare for the 76ers throughout the summer.
Quad City opened with 22 consecutive victories, then hit a bumpy patch with a doubleheader sweep at the hands of the Joliet Dirt Bags followed by a 4-2 loss to the Rock Island Independents (who play the Watkins Mudhens today at 1 in Williamsburg).
Since then, QC has reeled off 12 straight wins to come into the postseason with a 34-3 mark and their 20th consecutive Black Hawk Valley Conference title
"It's been a fun year," said Corrigan. "These guys have put some of the fun back into it for me."
Starting this afternoon, it is all business for the 76ers as they seek the first of the three straight victories they need to reign again as IABA state champions.
"It's not a given. One bad game, and we're done," Corrigan reiterated. "We want to win the last one, but we've got to get to the last one."