Unbeaten Gillespie runs the table, wins South Central Conference
By: JACKSON WILSON
Enquirer Democrat Reporter
As the season approaches its final chapter, the Carlinville Cavaliers and Gillespie Miners have proven themselves as two of the elite high school baseball teams in the Illinois High School Association 2A Class.
Gillespie ultimately held on to win the South Central Conference but Carlinville was just as worthy of such an honor, especially considering how greatly both rivals had been dominating down the stretch.
Behind a surging Henry Kufa, Carlinville ran all over North Mac and Staunton, with Dominic Alepra tossing a five-inning 11-0 no-hitter against Carrollton in-between.
Gillespie completed its first perfect league season in 32 years and remained untouched overall at 26-0. With the exception of top-ranked Father McGivney, the Miners are the only other unbeaten 2A team in the state.
Both of the Route 4 rivals, which were seperated by just one tally in their head-to-head battle that was won 6-5 by Gillespie last month, have been awarded a top seed in their respective regional and could rematch in the semifinals of the Pleasant Plains sectional.
Carlinville begins its postseason journey at Sullivan against either Arthur or Pana while Gillespie will be battling North Mac or Auburn close to home in Piasa.
Regional semifinal action is at 4:30 p.m. May 17.
A victory puts Carlinville against the winner of Shelbyville and Sullivan in the championship. Gillespie draws Southwestern if the Birds can defend home soil versus either New Berlin or Litchfield.
Carlinville pummels North Mac and Staunton
Henry Kufa is wanted for murder – the murder of baseballs.
The Carlinville senior popped a pair of home runs, including a grand slam to the opposite field, and finished with nine RBI in one game to lift the Cavaliers over the North Mac Panthers in Virden May 3.
Kufa’s slam, which came in the top of the second, helped Carlinville take control after North Mac had drawn first blood.
Additionally, Kufa handled the pitching duties, striking out six and limiting North Mac to just two earned runs on four hits in five innings of work.
Zach Reels, Jake Schwartz and Ryenn Hart added two hits apiece for the Cavaliers, who dropped North Mac to 11-5 overall and 3-4 in the SCC.
Owen Berle had two hits and three RBI for the Panthers.
Carlinville kept the pedal to the metal at Staunton and fittingly scored 18 runs on Hart’s 18th birthday May 5. The Cavaliers led 5-0 after two, then busted the game wide open with 12 runs in the top of the third. Hart only needed 50 pitches on the bump to seal a mercy rule shutout.
Kufa stayed hot and led the Cavaliers with three hits, including a double and another home run. Strutner also went deep while plating three tallies.
Carlinville finished 8-1 in the SCC, one win shy of its first conference title in school history. Gillespie locked up the outright championship by beating Greenville, 15-6, May 8.
The Cavaliers are 18-2 on the season.
Staunton, which will host East Alton-Wood River in regional quarterfinal action May 15, is looking at a potential second round confrontation with Father McGivney at Roxana.
The Bulldogs were 9-12 (2-6 SCC) heading into the final week of the regular season.
Gillespie runs the table, wins the South Central Conference
Gillespie stammered in the third frame and saw a 3-0 lead transform into a 5-3 deficit against Greenville, but batted around in the bottom half and counter-attacked the Comets with a six-run outburst. The Miners never looked back from there and kept their school’s first ever undefeated regular season intact.
Tristen Wargo, Bryan Jubelt, Bryce Hohnsbehn, Luke Schuckenbrock and Colton Bultema all fueled the rally two RBI apiece. Jack Kaylor also came through with a key double that ignited the Miners’ third inning jolt.
Earlier in the week, Gillespie torched Hillsboro, 13-1, to guarantee at least a share of the league crown.
In other action, Bunker Hill lost to Litchfield, 13-0, at home May 3. The Minutemen are 9-11 on the season and 3-5 in the Gateway Metro as they approach their final conference matchups with Marquette May 11 and Metro-East Lutheran May 12.