ABINGDON – Illini Bluffs went into the postseason as a sub-.500 team, but Tigers coach Jim Belville knew anything could happen in the postseason.
"It's one game. Any team can beat another team," Belville said. "I know that's cliché, but it's a cliché for a reason, because it's true."
The Tigers have played their best in every phase during the last two weeks, and that was on display Saturday. Illini Bluffs scored eight runs in the second inning, didn't allow a hit and easily beat Liberty 19-1 in a five-inning game for the Class 1A Abingdon Sectional championship.
The Tigers (12-8) have won five games in a row, won the first sectional in program history and are just one victory from the state tournament. Illini Bluffs plays Valmeyer (29-9) at 4 p.m. Monday in a super-sectional game at Lincoln Land Community College in Springfield.
Liberty (17-10) saw its winning streak end at eight games. The Eagles are still looking for the first sectional championship in school history.
"We had a great stretch," Eagles coach Brigham John said. "Everything really came together. Our hitters did a good job coming up with key hits and keeping innings going. We made very few mistakes, and our starting pitchers kept us in every game. Defensively, we played pretty good. We made plays that we didn't make today."
The Tigers had five hits in the second inning and was aided by shaky Liberty defense.
"It was just one hit after another, and we kept going from there," said Cam Scott, who struck out in that inning but had hits his other four trips. "We needed to just put the ball in play and see what happens."
"It's 1A baseball," Belville said. "If you put the ball in play, you give yourself a chance. We've been putting the ball in play a lot lately. Our hitters have gotten hot at the right time."
The Tigers had six players with at least two hits and 16 overall in five innings.
"They did a lot of little things right that inning, and it just kept going," John said. "It just shows you don't have to hit home runs. They did a good job of putting the ball in play. They found some holes, and we made some mistakes."
Scott pitched 3 2/3 innings and was lifted after 45 pitches. He will come back Monday to start the super-sectional game. Drew Davis got the final four outs, giving up an unearned run.
Illini Bluffs 19, Liberty 1
Illini Bluffs 083 44--19 14 2
Liberty 000 10--1 0 6
Scott, Davis (4) and Cox; Spilker, Thompson (3), Zanger (4) and Kasparie. WP--Scott. LP--Spilker. 2B--Illini Bluffs 2 (Scott, Rademaker).