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The Rock Falls Junior League All Stars are state champions.
Rock Falls used a big fifth inning to come from behind and top Evergreen Park 8-7 in the finals of the Junior League Baseball State Tournament Tuesday at Foley Field at Spring Valley’s Kirby Park.
With the win, Rock Falls advances to the Central Region Tournament in Indianapolis this weekend.
“We worked through it. The kids are like rocks, they’re solid as a rock,” said Rock Falls coach Ronnie Pillars. “It means a lot (to win a state title). A lot of these kids, it’s their second round. We went to the Central Regional two years ago (in Little League), and now we’re going back again. These kids battled. They’re a great group of kids.”
Rock Falls struck first with two runs in the first inning, but Evergreen Park responded in a big way as it used patient approaches at the plate and capitalized on a costly Rock Falls error to take a 5-2 lead in the bottom of the second.
Evergreen Park sent 11 batters to the plate in the second frame as it drew seven walks and tallied all of its scores without the benefit of a single hit.
Undeterred, Rock Falls launched a massive rally of its own in the fifth inning as it scored six runs to retake the lead in a frame highlighted by a two-RBI single off the bat of Logan Pillars.
Rock Falls, which also edged past Evergreen Park 7-6 on Sunday in the double-elimination tournament, saw its lead whittled down to one in the bottom of the fifth when Aidan Read collected his squad’s first hit on an infield single and later came in to score on a passed ball to pull within one run at 8-7.
But Rock Falls held on down the stretch, helped in part by a diving catch from right fielder Zak McKinzie that closed out the sixth with the tying run on third base. Pillars picked up the win on the mound in relief for Rock Falls as he worked 2 1/3 scoreless innings.
Rock Falls leadoff hitter Quinton Matznick was 2-for-5 at the plate with two runs scored. He was the only player in the game to record multiple hits.
Julian Rodriguez was charged the loss for Evergreen Park.
“We played these guys twice and it was a one-run game both times. They’re a good team, we’re a good team — we’re pretty evenly matched,” Evergreen Park manager Mike Nix said. “On any given day (either team could win).”
Chris Yucus can be reached at 220-6995 or at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @NT_SportsChris.
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