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Kevin Hieronymus

State experience will last a lifetime for Lady Bruins

If the Lady Bruins softball team wants to know what the experience of going to state is going to be like this weekend, they need to turn no farther than their athletic director, Tom McGunnigal.

He was a senior member of the Academy’s baseball team that won the Class A State baseball championship 25 years ago in Springfield.

And while McGunnigal emphasizes that it does seem like 25 years ago, he said you remember everything vividly because it was such a great experience.

“The best memories are just those of being with the guys – my best friends,” he said. “We had a great time playing together. Winning came because we just pulled for each other and picked each other up. We got hot at the right time and just played our best.”

The one memory McGunnigal said that always comes up when the boys get together is simply what they refer to as the “practice.” He explains.

“We lost to Putnam County here on a Friday night and we had a two-hour practice following the game, in our uniforms, right on the field we just played. We did not lose after that…none of us wanted John to be “silent” at us again,” McGunnigal said, in reference to his coach and current Bruins skipper John Bellino.

If there is a similarity between his team and the St. Bede Lady Bruins, who may just be the team to beat in East Peoria this weekend, it’s their pitchers. the 1988 Bruins (25-4) had senior southpaw Brad Koster and the Lady Bruins boast an equally dominating Lainie Schweickert.

“I see this team of girls with that dominant pitcher just like Brad Koster was for us. I know when Lainie gets on the mound the girls have very much the same feeling we had with Kos on the mound…we are unbeatable. Get him a couple runs and he will do the rest,” McGunnigal said.

The Bruins were unbeatable at state, playing like a well-oil machine under Bellino, who recently took the Bruins to the regional championship in his 35th year at the Academy.

Koster pitched a one-hitter in a 10-0 shutout over Mahomet-Seymour in the state quarterfinals. He picked up a save in the Bruins 6-3 win over Alton Marquette and returned to the mound later that evening to pitch the Bruins to a state championship win over Alton Marquette.

They also had tournament stars like catcher Steve Pomatto, who drove in a state tournament record seven RBIs, future pro Jim Perona and Eric Krogulski, who would play four years at Iowa State University, all of whom were named to the all-tournament team along with Koster.

So 25 years ago, the St. Bede baseball team captured the state championship. The St. Bede softball team is primed to add one of its own. Be sure to follow them here in the BCR sports pages and online at

• If the Lady Bruins are able to match their baseball counterparts feat from 25 years ago, they would become just the second state champions from the Academy and the very first state champions for girls sports.

The only other Bureau County female sports team crowned as state champion was the 1990 Princeton volleyball team.

There have been three other state champions from Bureau County - the 1995 and 2001 Hall football teams and the 2005 Bureau Valley football team.

Kevin Hieronymus is the BCR Sports Editor. Contact him a


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