Maroons hope pressure is off at SHG

Published 06/03 2014 04:17PM

Updated 06/03 2014 06:36PM

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - Before last weekend it had been more than 20 years since the Central Maroons had won a baseball regional.  Now that that is in the past, they're shifting their sights to their first sectional crown since 1968.  Central spent Tuesday afternoon practicing on the artificial turf at Illinois Field, the home of the Fighting Illini baseball team, before they play on a similar surface Wednesday at Sacred Heart-Griffin High School in Springfield.

The Maroons, who set a new school record with 35 wins this season, have had a target on their backs in east central Illinois all season, but they expect that to flip when they face the Cyclones, who have been among the best teams in the state all year.  Head coach John Staab admitted his team, filled with pressure, played tight during the regional tournament.

"I would expect us to not be as tight tomorrow because as good as we are, we feel the bull eye is on [SHG's] back for a change," Staab said.  "I expect us to play loose and confident, and hopefully that is the case."

Central has shattered the previous school record of 30 wins in a season, and with that success has come unbelievable pressure.  Catcher Luke Beesley thinks getting away from home could actually relieve some of that pressure.

"We've been tight for the past couple games," Beesley said.  "But right now the target is on their back so we're ready now."

Central's opponent, Sacred Heart-Griffin has even earned some national attention as one of the top teams in the midwest this season, but Staab doesn't think his team will be intimidated.

"They know what's ahead of them," Staab said.  "It's an awesome challenge with the number one team in the state on their field, but at the same time, we're going in confident. We've had a heck of a year and we know we can get them."

First pitch is set for 4:30 pm Wednesday at Sacred Heart-Griffin High School. The winner advances to Saturday's sectional championship against either Mt. Zion or Normal (U-High).

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