For the fourth time in its school history, the Coal City Middle School has had a baseball champion crowned.
Jerry McDowell’s hardball team delivered a 24-3 record and on Saturday, joined the 1964, 1996 and 1997 teams who have achieved the state champion title.
On Wednesday, the community of Coal City was there to honor the team for their accomplishments.
“This means a lot, because the community has given this team such great support,” McDowell said before the championship rally Wednesday. “They gave us a nice fan-base down there. It means a lot for the community to be here and share this with us.”
“I think this is exciting. It feels really good,” said Blake Harseim, the winning pitcher in the Friday state game.
“It feels very good. We’re all excited,” teammate Kaleb Spreitzer concurred. “It means a lot, it’s pretty awesome.”
While the Coal City boys were paraded around town, CCMS principal Travis Johnson said the team was certainly worthy of Wednesday’s pomp and circumstance.
“This is a great accomplishment. The kids worked really hard and coach [McDowell] out-coached everybody down there,” he said. “They manufactured runs and played outstanding ball the whole time. It’s a great accomplishment by the boys.”
CCMS athletic director Jason Finkelstein echoed similar sentiments.
“I’m proud of the boys,” he said. “There were a lot of teams they beat this year that were bigger than them but they played hard and coach McDowell did a good job.”
Assisted by Nate Wills, Tim Horrie, Austin McDowell and Shawn Greiner, the Warriors received a police escort in a decked out school bus around town. Once back to the middle school, the team was, once again, lauded for their efforts. Many of the approximately 165 kids on the fan bus and their parents were again on hand as the Warriors relived their big moments at State.
“The team is not very big,” McDowell said. “We were the smallest school down there, but we played great. It made it just that much more special to beat bigger schools, including Morton who was right there and the defending state champions. The team was very unified all the way through.”