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Illiana Christian baseball wins 17th straight postseason game – other local scores

LANSING, Ill. (June 4, 2024) – Like clockwork, Illiana Christian baseball just keeps winning playoff games.

Tanner Post pitched a two-hitter and No. 9 hitter Luke Smith homered as the Vikings knocked off Wheeler 8-1 in a steady rain on Saturday at U.S. Steel Yard in Gary.

The Class 2A regional win sends Illiana (19-9) to this weekend’s four-team Northern Semistate at a location to be announced this week.

The two-time defending Class 2A state champion Vikings have won 17 straight postseason games dating back to 2022. Their last playoff loss, to Wheeler in the 2021 sectional final, came when the current seniors were freshmen.

Both Smith and Post say there’s no pressure to continue the streak.

“We always say that it’s not pressure, it’s a pleasure,” Smith said. “To hear people come out and cheer against us or get a 1-2-3 inning against us and they’re all up — and we go 1-2-3 again and bounce back. I think it results in a lot more joy to have a lot of people cheering against you and then you prove them wrong.”

Not getting ahead of themselves and trusting each other also helps, according to Post.

“We just think one pitch at a time, one game at a time,” Post said. “We’ve got guys on the bench that will do it if you’re having a bad day or something. I knew that if I couldn’t finish all seven (innings), I knew my reliever would do it.

“It’s just who we are. We’ve got depth.”

The conditions, which were bad enough to force the postponement of the second regional game between Chesterton and Lake Central, made it tough on both pitchers and baserunners.

“It seemed like whenever I got out there the rain started coming down harder,” said Post, who struck out seven, walked four, and hit one batter. “But it is what it is, we fight through it. I know I’ve got my defense behind me. They made a number of plays for me, that’s all I’ve got to ask for.”

Smith gave Post all the runs he needed in the bottom of the second when he lifted a two-run homer over the left-field wall. It was his second home run in two playoff games after hitting none in the first 26 games of the season.

“I knew it was gone when I hit it,” Smith said. “I don’t like to be a big (show-off) guy or think it’s gone and flip (the bat) and it hits the wall or something. (But on) that one I did jog a little bit.”

In the bottom of the sixth, Smith almost got another homer, but his deep drive to left was caught on the warning track.

“I didn’t think that one was gone, but I knew it had a chance to go,” he said. “I guess I was just seeing the ball well today.”

In between those two drives, the Vikings put the game out of reach. They scored five runs on no hits in the third on no hits with the help of four walks, three errors, two steals, two passed balls, and a wild pitch. Illiana made it 8-1 in the fifth on Tyler Balkema’s RBI single.
Illiana coach Jeff VanderWoude said his team has been good at focusing on the task at hand and not getting distracted by the playoff winning streak, the weather or anything else.

“That’s what we talk about all the time,” VanderWoude said. “One of our things is ‘hashtag good,’ which is basically, anything that happens — an umpire’s calls are bad, anything that happens is bad — we don’t care. We’ve got to find a way. God gives us things to work on every single time and we’re out here, let’s just find a way and get our job done.”

Boys track

Illiana junior Divine Olikagu finished 25th in the 300-meter hurdles at the IHSAA state meet on Saturday in Bloomington with a time of 41.41.

Boys golf

The Vikings finished fifth among 12 teams in Friday’s Lake Central Sectional at Palmira Golf and Country Club with a score of 340.

Two Illiana golfers just missed advancing to the regional as individuals. The cutoff was 82, and Isaac Sherwood and Zach Davids both shot 83. The Vikings’ other scorers were Noah Davids and Will Bloom, both at 87.


Mike Clark
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.


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