Edwardsville beats Mundelein to win its fourth state title

There was just one home run during the eight games this weekend, and it came in Edwardsville’s thrilling 4-3 win against Mundelein in the Class 4A championship game.

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Edwardsville’s Kaden Jennings (11) and Cole Funkhauser (1) start to celebrate as the Tigers defeat Mundelein in the Class 4A state championship game.

Edwardsville’s Kaden Jennings (11) and Cole Funkhauser (1) start to celebrate as the Tigers defeat Mundelein in the Class 4A state championship game.

Allen Cunningham/For the Sun-Times

High school hitters ripped the ball all over Duly Health and Care Field during the Illinois High School Association state finals this weekend in Joliet.

There were lasers down the line and huge blasts to center field. But there was just one home run during the eight games and it came in Edwardsville’s thrilling 4-3 win against Mundelein in the Class 4A championship game.

Tiger senior Adam Powell, a 6-0, 200-pound lefty, hit a long fly ball to the opposite field in the fifth inning. The game was scoreless and there was one runner on base.

“Off the bat it felt good,” Powell said. “I didn’t think it was anywhere close to going out. Maybe as a foul ball. But it just kept going until I got to second base and I really didn’t even know it was gone. I just couldn’t see it anymore.”

Powell’s home run certainly wasn’t the best hit ball of the weekend, but it was a monumental blow, giving Edwardsville a 2-0 lead and what seemed like a clear path to the title.

“I was not expecting that to go out,” Edwardsville starting pitcher Gannon Burns said. “You don’t think a lefty is going to hit it 350 feet like that. It lit a fire under us and got us going.”

But Mundelein rose from the dead. The Mustangs rallied for three runs and took the lead in the bottom of the fifth. It looked like they had finally rattled Burns.

Neither team scored in the sixth as Mundelein clung to a 3-2 lead.

Edwardsville (34-4) scored two in the top of the seventh to take the lead back and Burns trotted out to the mound to try and secure the state championship with a complete game.

“He’s a dude,” Powell said. “He’s one of those guys where there were a couple spots where he looked a little shaky but I had full confidence he was going to get the job done for us.”

Burns did it. He struck out Mundelein’s leadoff hitter. Connor Weik drew a walk for the Mustangs but Burns got two ground outs to give Edwardsville its fourth state title.

Burns threw all seven innings, allowing one earned run on five hits. He walked three and struck out five.

The Tigers also won the state title in 2019, 1998, and 1990. They are one of the state’s premier programs, with 16 appearances in the state finals.

Mundelein’s Michael Farina (1), Drew Wellington (3), and Christian Seminaro (16), walk off the field after losing to Edwardsville in the Class 4A title game.

Mundelein’s Michael Farina (1), Drew Wellington (3), and Christian Seminaro (16), walk off the field after losing to Edwardsville in the Class 4A title game.

Allen Cunningham/For the Sun-Times

“It’s the coaches and the preparation that we put in,” Burns said. “It gives us depth that most other schools don’t have.”

Caden Morton, Mundelein’s starting pitcher, had spent the season as a reliever and was thrown into emergency duty in the state title game.

He lived up to the moment, holding Edwardsville’s explosive offense to just three hits and two runs in his five innings. It was just his second start of the season and his longest outing.

“Caden has worked his butt off to get where he is,” Mustangs coach Randy Lerner said. “Stepping in to start like that was phenomenal.”

Tommy Stricklin had two hits for Mundelein (29-6) and Danny Connelly’s two-run double in the fifth inning put the Mustangs ahead late and had their energetic fans nearly tasting a state title.

“I’m so proud of the fight we’ve had all year,” Lerner said. “This was an unbelievable high school baseball game. Both teams didn’t have their top pitchers and guys battled. That’s the way a championship game should be.”

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