PEORIA — When he woke up on Friday morning, Evan Addis didn't have the faintest expectation he'd swing the bat later that night.
Addis, a sophomore for the Teutopolis baseball team, entered Friday's Class 2A state semifinal against Rock Island Alleman hitting .209 on the season with exactly nine base hits to his name in 43 at-bats this season.
In the bottom of the fourth inning, with the score tied 2-all, Addis' name was called. T-Town coach Justin Fleener called it a "gut instinct" to send his sophomore in as a pinch hitter with a runner in scoring position and one out.
There was no fanfare and no speech before the at-bat. Just drive one up the middle, Fleener told him.
Addis delivered with a single to right field, scoring Tyler Runde to give the Shoes a 3-2 lead on the way to a 7-2 win over Alleman (27-14) at Dozer Park. Teutopolis (27-8-1) will play Pleasant Plains for a game that is scheduled at 5 p.m. Saturday for the Class 2A state championship. It's the third year in a row that the Shoes will play for a Class 2A state baseball championship.
Addis, naturally, was ecstatic as he raced down the first-base line, picking up his 11th RBI of the season.
“I’m pumped,' he said. "Knowing that you’re going up 3-2, your hearts races and your nerves are really high."
Addis pinch hit for Justin Hardiek, who will be back in the lineup on Saturday, Fleener said. But Fleener, a veteran coach with 516 career wins could sense Addis was ready to deliver. Hardiek struck out in his first at bat and Addis had been hitting the ball well in practice the last week.
“I thought, ‘Here’s the opportunity. Let’s see if we can make that change here,'" Fleener said. "It was kind of a gut feeling."
That, though, wasn't the first time Addis played on Friday. In the second inning he pinch ran for catcher Brady McMahon, stole second and came around to score thanks to a throwing error by Alleman catcher Dominic Ferrari.
The RBI came at a crucial time, breaking a 2-all tie in a game that had a combined seven errors and seven walks.
None of Teutopolis starter Dawson Smith's runs were earned, but he walked five batters. He said he struggled to find his release point after entering the game with just 12 walks on the season. Three errors behind him certainly didn't help matters. No less, Smith found his way through. He didn't play in last season's state final four. Friday night was a learning experience of sorts.
None of the inexperience at Dozer Park mattered. He left at roughly 10:15 p.m. with a spot in the state championship game secured.
“It feels great, being a senior and going out, it’s one of the best ways to go out senior year," Smith said.
Smith didn't get rattled on the mound. He locked in and made the pitches when he needed to on the way to 10 strikeouts.
“You’ve got to stay composed," he said. "You’ve got to trust your defense behind you and make the pitches so you get out of it. That’s what I tried doing."
In fact, it may have been the most bizarre three-hitter Smith has thrown in his career. He worked six innings on the mount, allowing just the three hits with five walks, but he stranded eight Alleman runners on base.
“There were nerves on both parts," Fleener said. "The pitchers got through it. They got their feel for the game and they battled out there."
The Shoes produced hits up and down the lineup in support of Smith, who was 3-of-4 with two runs scored. Clint Weber had three hits of his own with an RBI in the first inning. In fact, 11 of the 12 hits from the Shoes were delivered by upperclassmen, a staple of the Shoes' trips to Peoria in seven of the last 10 season.
The biggest hit of the night, though, came from a sophomore on the biggest stage. He couldn't contain his excitement, even long after he drove in what would be the game-winning run.
“My nerves were real high," Addis said. "You feel the crowd. You just have to focus on keeping your nose down and driving one up the middle."
Pick any one of his 11 RBIs of the season, none matched his fourth-inning single.
“That was by far the best one," he said just before leaving Dozer Park after the game.