Morton baseball wins Class 3A state championship
JOLIET — Winning a state championship is the perfect bookend for a Morton baseball team that put together a storybook season.
The Potters (30-6) beat Chicago St. Ignatius 4-1 in the Class 3A state championship game Saturday at Route 66 Stadium in Joliet.
In four years, the Potters compiled a 114-30 record but this season put it all together to accomplish each of their goals: Winning the Mid-Illini Conference, winning 25 games, earning the top seed in its sub-sectional, winning each postseason plaque and now a state championship.
“Over the last four years, we feel like we’ve been one of the best regular season teams in the state and we just haven’t been able to get over the hump,” Morton coach Jesse Crawford said. “And to see these guys come through, the pitching staff that we put together, it’s a historic run.”
It is Morton’s first baseball state championship since 1984. It is the fifth M-I team in 12 years at a state finals and the first to win it since Illinois Valley Central won Class A in 2006. Morton is the first large-school team in the Journal Star area to win state since Galesburg in 1988.
The Potters turned to their ace, Logan Peterson, just as they did in 2013 when Morton Junior High lost the IESA eighth-grade title game, 6-4 to Coal City. But this time, Peterson fought his way through six innings and allowed one run with a hurt ankle.
“I still remember the thing that our eighth-grade coach told us after we lost,” Peterson said. “We were all at Vinni (Massaglia’s) house having a cookout, and he told us, ‘This is the team that’s going to win state. Your senior year is going to be your year.’
“Heck, sure enough, we did it.”
Thomas Stoodt scored the first run of the game for Chicago St. Ignatius (20-12) after he singled with two outs, moved up on two walks and scored on a wild pitch.
″(Peterson) came out in the first inning and was looking a little wild in the beginning with a tight (strike) zone,” said Isaiah Gudeman, Morton’s sophomore catcher. “Once he got locked in the second inning, he started to deal a little bit and he had quite a few Ks today and he did really well for the center stage for his life.”
Peterson was just as dialed in offensively early, when he tripled to center field in the first inning to score Nick Guerra and tie the game 1-1.
“After I fouled that one off, I was kind of upset, but I knew he was going to throw me another fastball, so I was just sitting on fastball, fastball, fastball, and he gave it to me right down the middle,” said Peterson. “I just didn’t try to swing too hard, it came off the bat good and I knew on this turf it would roll to the fence.”
Massaglia’s sacrifice fly in the first gave Morton a 2-1 lead that it wouldn’t surrender, despite only getting three hits.
Guerra walked three times and scored two of the Potters’ four runs. He then closed the game out in the seventh inning with two strikeouts.
“I didn’t get a whole lot of pitches to swing at today, so that was kind of frustrating but coming in (relief), that’s probably the hardest I’ve tried to throw in my life,” said Guerra. “The nerves got to me a little bit with those next two batters, but I was able to close it out and it was unbelievable.”
In front of a crowd dominated by cherry red and grey, the Potters put a cherry on top by excelling in every facet of the game.
“We proved we can out-slug you, and we proved that we can out-pitch you,” Crawford said. “And the best feeling I can say is that we’re the best team in the state of Illinois in Class 3A, and that’s quite the accomplishment when 180-some schools started.
“And to be on top of the mountain at the end, it’s just an incredible feeling.”