EAST PEORIA, Ill. — It was an appropriate start to the Class 2A third-place game for the two players who statistically have done the most for Beecher.
The ending? Not so much.
Senior pitcher Sarah Crews and freshman third baseman Taylor Johnson ignited the Bobcats early but a six-run third by Monticello proved to be the difference in a 6-1 final Saturday.
The Bobcats (33-9) didn’t get the state title or third place, but fourth place against a tough Sages (31-5) team isn’t too shabby for a group that started six underclassman.
“It was a great run throughout the season and the kids did a great job of improving,” Beecher coach Kevin Hayhurst said. “We ran into some tough competition so I take my hat off to that.
“It was great experience for the young kids and the future is bright.”
Johnson got the visiting Bobcats on board with a home run to right-center in her first at-bat. She ended one of the most dominant seasons by a freshman in state history by going 2-for-2 with a walk. She finished with 18 home runs and has a legitimate shot at the state career home run record of 54 set by Cierra Hutchinson of Johnson City (2009-2012).
“I’ll try,” she said with a smile about going after the home run record. “It’s been a crazy season but we still played through until the end. It was good times.”
Hayhurst coached in his seventh appearance Downstate, including three as an assistant to Gary Lagesse at Thornwood winning three state titles (1990, ’91, ’98). He won two titles for Beecher in 2004 and ’07, including one (’07) with Lagesse’s daughter Alex. His overall record as a coach is 354-65.
The Bobcats lose senior starters Crews, shorstop Isabella Woolslayer and second baseman Savannah Lowe. They’ll return seven starters and several more talented underclassman who played sparingly but are primed and ready to contribute next season.
Crews (23-5) doubled her first at-bat and retired seven of the first eight hitters before the Sages’ bats exploded for six runs and five hits in the third. The big blows were a pair of two-run home runs by Allie Hislope and Megan Magsamen. Pitcher Chrissy Gadbury (26-5) added a two-run single. Sam Valentin was 4-for-4 against Crews.