PEORIA — Grant Farmer said he didn’t have his best stuff Friday afternoon in the Class 1A state semifinal. Hard to believe, given the Illinois Lutheran junior right-hander yielded only two hits in six sterling innings to lead the Chargers to a 1-0 victory over Argenta-Oreana at Dozer Park.
Farmer, however, had set the bar high for himself, as he entered the Crete school’s first state semifinal appearance with a 0.25 ERA. Still, he certainly did enough to send Illinois Lutheran (26-2) to Saturday’s Class 1A state championship against Webber (23-7).
“The biggest part for me is being able to push through when I don’t have my best stuff, like today,” said Farmer. “This was not my best stuff, by a longshot. I wasn’t finishing my curveball like I usually do.”
Farmer (10-0), a 6-2, 190-pounder, struck out five and walked three. Right-hander Sam Geraci, a Parkland College recruit, relieved Farmer and cemented the victory by striking out two of three in the seventh to earn the save.
In six playoff games, Illinois Lutheran has allowed only five runs. For the season, the Chargers have shut out 10 opponents.
“Obviously, it was a very intense game,” said Illinois Lutheran coach Mark Kjenstad. “The type of game that not much room for error with two outstanding pitchers. … Once again, as has been the case all year, our pitching was great.”
The combined shutout negated a stellar performance by Argenta-Oreana (23-6) starter Gage Eller (7-1), who threw a one-hitter with eight strikeouts and six walks.
Deadlocked in a scoreless tie, Illinois Lutheran broke through in the bottom of the fifth when pinch-hitter Jacob Heyn reached on a one-out walk. Junior catcher Dylan Gould then ripped a double to left-field that one-hopped the fence. Heyn beat the errant relay throw at the plate.
“I thought if you paid to get in, you certainly got your money’s worth,” Argenta-Oreana coach Tom Saunches said. “They hit the ball hard, one more time than us.”
Now Illinois Lutheran will look to bring home the school’s first state championship against a Webber club that outlasted New Athens, 5-4, in 10 innings.
“We set our goals pretty high at the beginning of the year, and we’ve been looking forward to this for a long time,” said Farmer. “There’s a lot of satisfaction of getting here, but we have to stay humble and stay hungry.”