PEORIA — Given the precipitous spring weather, the Alleman Pioneers had to be one of the few baseball teams in the state to play the maximum 42 games — 35 in the regular season and seven in the postseason.
Right down to the final inning, they sure got their money’s worth.
Down 3-0 with two innings to go in the Class 2A state tournament's third-place game Saturday afternoon, the Pioneers rallied for two runs in the sixth inning and put the go-ahead run on base in the seventh, but couldn’t pull off a season-ending stunner, falling to Aurora Christian 3-2.
“It’s been a grind,” said Alleman junior Collin Snyder, who suffered his first loss despite throwing a two-hitter. “I’m very proud that our team was able to get in 42 games.”
Added Alleman senior Chase VanDerGinst, “The whole spring, we had to come in with the mindset that we were going be playing. The coaches did a good job; that’s a tribute to them.”
The fourth-place trophy is Alleman baseball’s third, adding to a second-place finish in 2012 and fourth-place trophy in 1997. No other team in the Western Big Six has more than two state baseball trophies.
The Pioneers (27-15) looked as if they would go down easy through the first five innings. Aurora Christian pitcher Jake Kuntzendorf was perfect through three innings and maintained his no-hitter through four. CJ Terronez got Alleman's first hit in the fifth, but was stranded along with Lakin Calloway, who also singled.
To that point, the only offensive fireworks came from the bat of Kunzendorf. The Eagles’ cleanup hitter blasted a 320-foot home run over the left-field fence at Dozer Park for a two-run blast. That came after MJ Stavola had singled, stole second and third, and then scored on a wild throw on the latter steal.
Those were the only two hits Snyder allowed.
All the Pioneers needed was the comeback mode they had perfected in the sectional championship and the super-sectional.
“Even when we are down, we know we always have a chance,” VanDerGinst said.
In the sixth, Sam Mattecheck led off with a single and moved to second on a base hit by Zach Carpita. Another walk, to Terronez, loaded the bases, setting the stage for the only crooked number of the game for the Pioneers.
First baseman Anthony Glancey, getting the start because the team’s leading hitter Nate Sheets could not play because he was ejected in Friday’s semifinal, lined a single to left to make it 3-2.
“He had a huge postseason,” Alleman coach Jerry Burkhead said of Glancey.
Glancey is one of five Alleman seniors, along with Sam Mattecheck, Jono Berry, Max Bowling and VanDerGinst.