For several years, the Oglesby Junior League baseball team was on the cusp of winning a District 20 banner.
On Sunday, Oglesby finally broke through.
Behind a strong pitching performance from Josh Senica and timely hitting, Oglesby defeated La Salle 5-0 in the District 20 Tournament title series at Dickinson Field in Oglesby.
“We’ve come close in Minor League and Little League,” Oglesby manager Tom Tunnell said. “We’ve always been runner-up. It feels good to get it done.
“(I think we broke through this year because) our kids seemed like they adjusted a little better than the rest of the teams to the bigger diamond. We just played really well together.”
Senica dominated from the start as he struck the first batter and pitched around a single in the first inning.
He only allowed two more hits the rest of the way while striking out 10 batters and walking one in a complete game.
“Josh Senica pitched a spectacular game,” Tunnell said. “He pitched so well. He threw 80 pitches or so and pitched a complete game, which is unheard of at this level at this age. He was spot on. It was the best game I’ve seen pitched at any level on this diamond this year.
“He threw a lot of heat. He had a few offspeed pitches he wrinkled in there, but he was just focused. He’s a gamer.”
Senica did not allow a runner to advance past second base.
The closest La Salle came to advancing to third base came in the fourth inning.
Easton Moncrief singled with one out. He attempted to run from first to third on a groundout to second base but Oglesby first baseman Luke Tunnell fired to third baseman Gage Starkey to complete the inning-ending double play.
“I have to give credit to Josh Senica,” La Salle manager Kyle Van Duzer said. “He pitched a great game. We only had three hits. But I’m really proud of the way we battled.”
With the way Senica was pitching, Oglesby didn’t need much offense.
Oglesby scratched out a run in the second inning when Ben Burke ripped a triple to right field to start the frame.
He scored with one out on an errant pickoff throw.
Oglesby scored two runs in the third on an RBI single by Luke Tunnell and an RBI groundout by Burke.
Tunnel hit another RBI single and Burke smacked an RBI double in the fourth to round out the scoring for Oglesby.
“When we had people in scoring position, we had people who got some key hits to keep it rolling,” Tom Tunnell said. “With Josh on the mound shutting them down, we got what we needed.”
Oglesby advances to sub-state in Mendota beginning on Friday.
“We’re just going to go, see where we’re at and have fun,” Tunnell said. “One thing we stress with these kids is it’s all about having fun. We don’t want to put too much pressure on the boys.”
La Salle bounced back to reach the title series after losing to Oglesby 17-1 in its second game of the tournament.
La Salle set up the rematch with Oglesby by defeating Spring Valley (11-3), Mendota (8-7 and Ottawa National (7-4).
“I’m really proud of the boys for making it to the championship game,” Van Duzer said. “We battled through the loser’s bracket. We beat some good teams to get here.
“We had a lot of pitching and had a lot of pitchers do really well for us. I’m proud of that.”
Kevin Chlum can be reached at 220-6939, or at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @NT_SportsEditor.