LA GRANGE – The La Grange Babe Ruth 13-year-olds won the Northern Illinois State Title at Sedgwick Park in La Grange on Sunday by beating Downers Grove 13-8.
The win sends La Grange to downstate Robinson for the Ohio Valley Regional along with 11 other state champs. Play begins Thursday.
The players and fans charged the field after the win. The team received a banner and a plaque. On Sunday, it was all about enjoying the victory as manager Jeff Gianone handed white championship T-shirts to ecstatic players.
La Grange led 5-0 early and managed to hold off a pesky Downers Grove bunch that had beaten Lansing 23-10 Sunday morning to advance to the title game.
Gianone noted that Luis Banda played error-free defense at shortstop the entire tournament, catcher Zach Klimes "had a lot of key hits," and pitcher Andrew Jacobson allowed just one run over the last three innings to seal Sunday's victory.
Counting district play, La Grange played Downers Grove four times, winning three. Two games needed late rallies, including Saturday when La Grange scored six runs in the seventh inning for a 15-14 victory.
La Grange opened tourney play an 18-17 win over Hegewisch late Thursday.
Next up for La Grange is Western Kentucky at 10 a.m. Thursday followed by Eastern Kentucky at 12:30 p.m. Friday and Wisconsin at 8 p.m. Friday.
After pool play, the 12 teams in Robinson will be seeded for single-elimination bracket play that begins Saturday. The top four seeds get byes in the first round. The champ advances to the Babe Ruth World Series in Williston, N.D.
This is the first state title for a La Grange Babe Ruth team since the 16-18-year-old team won state in 2011. The 13-15 team also won state in 2005.