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Illiana Christian Baseball repeats as state champion

DYER, Ind. (June 21, 2023) – Illiana Christian’s Kevin Corcoran Jr. had an unconventional prep baseball career, to say the least.

He and his fellow seniors didn’t have a freshman season, which was canceled because of the pandemic.

Sophomore year was the Vikings’ first playoff experience since the school moved from Lansing in 2018 as they waited out the IHSAA’s transition process.

They lost in the sectional that spring — and haven’t lost a playoff game since.

Corcoran threw a complete-game win in the Class 2A state championship game for the second straight season on Friday as Illiana beat Covenant Christian 3-0 in Indianapolis.

The Vikings had never won a team state title in Illinois, but now they’ve gone back-to-back in baseball in Indiana. They beat Centerville 10-1 for the 2022 title.

Illiana Christian had never won a team state title in any sport before going back-to-back in baseball the past two seasons. (Photo provided)

After his late start, Corcoran — who will continue his career at Webster University in Missouri — never took anything for granted,

“Not having that freshman year, you want to cherish the moments,” he said. “Sharing the season with the guys. This isn’t travel ball. We grew up playing together.”

And Illiana coach Jeff VanderWoude also was along for the ride.

“I’ve been with Kevin since he was about 8 years old,” VanderWoude said. “He and my son Isaac played together; we started our own travel team.”

Corcoran’s dad, Kevin Sr., coached alongside Jeff VanderWoude and the families are good friends, a bond that extends to many other Vikings as well.

The elder VanderWoude took over the Illiana program in 2020 and knew good times were coming. But what’s happened the last two years? It’s beyond his wildest dreams.

“Not two-time state champs,” he said. “I did think when I took the job and looking at who was there — I thought last year if we could do it, that would be the year.”

The Vikings did win it all in ’22. Then they graduated a talented group of seniors and headed into this season with the added expectations that come along with being defending state champs.

Illiana
Illiana’s senior class won two state titles in three years of competition after having their freshman season canceled because of the pandemic. (Photo provided)

But, Kevin Corcoran Jr. said, “we’re not sweating the expectations on us. You lose nine seniors, (it’s), ‘What are they going to do now?'”

The Vikings played up in class and competition as often as they could this spring. Some pivotal moments in Corcoran Jr.’s mind were a split with defending Class 3A champ Andrean — Illiana’s first-ever win vs. the 59ers — and a victory against a good Highland team.

Corcoran was one of the links to the title team and he was as good as ever, bringing an 8-2 record, 1.01 ERA and a 108-17 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 55 1/3 innings into the state final. There, he was sharp again, throwing an 84-pitch complete game with six hits, one walk and eight strikeouts. He also picked off two Covenant baserunners.

Covenant Christian’s Ethan Kimmerle, who will play at Wabash College, was good as well. He threw an eight-hitter with one earned run, one walk, and nine strikeouts.

But Illiana (25-9) broke a scoreless tie with two runs in the fourth and added an insurance run in the sixth when Cody DeLong scored on the front end of a double steal.

Freshman Tanner Post was 3-for-3 with a single in the fourth-inning rally. Matt Bultema drove in the second run with a groundout.

DeLong finished 2-for-3, while Isaac VanderWoude, who will play at Virginia University, went 2-for-4 with a pair of doubles.

Corcoran Jr., pitching at Victory Field for the second straight season, took care of the rest.

“It was for sure different,” he said. “You felt that nervousness (after) the first state title. You don’t want to mess it up. But you know the feeling, the fans — you started to feel a little calm.”

And then the Vikings had that championship feeling again.

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Mike Clark
Mike Clarkhttps://muckrack.com/mike-clark
Mike Clark is a veteran journalist who has been covering sports in the Chicago area and beyond, from preps to pros, for more than four decades.

1 COMMENT

  1. Congratulations to Illiana. They have really done well in many areas of athletics since moving to Indiana from Illinois. When they were in Illinois I always liked competing against them in cross country and track. They have a great group of people there in their athletic department.

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