Northbrook Braves Baseball coach Mitch Stewart saw his team take down top competition all season long, but that success came to an end at the American Legion Baseball state tournament.
Northbrook finished 1-2 in the tournament, which took place in Mattoon, to take fourth place.
The Braves came back from six runs down to beat St. Louis-area Fairview Heights 11-8 in their opener behind two three-run home runs from Oakton Community College's Brett Synek, but they lost the next two games to come home disappointed.
Ace pitcher Henry Erickson, who pitched for Aurora University in the spring, came down with strep throat the night before he was supposed to pitch in the second game, which forced Stewart to juggle his pitching rotation.
Wheaton beat the Braves 11-3 in that game, and then Danville knocked them out 11-9.
"We weren't the real Braves," Stewart said. "We can hit better than anybody down there for the most part if we were on, but I still feel bad about it. I feel really bad for the kids that bonded up really good."
Recent Glenbrook North graduate Jason Scholl hit what Stewart described as a monster home run in front of his future coaches from Eastern Illinois in the loss to Danville. They made the short trip from Charleston to Mattoon to watch him play, and he put on a good show.
"I'm kind of glad for him that he showed them a little something," Stewart said. "Jason had a great tournament."
Although things didn't go their way in Mattoon, the Braves still had a memorable season. They finished with a record of 43-10, and Stewart had nothing but positive things to say about them.
"The absolute best team I've ever had," he said. "We shattered our most wins record, which was 38.
"It wasn't for their lack of effort. It wasn't for anything."
The 40-year coach had envisioned this season lining up as a great one, and the team lived up to his expectations, but he wished the run could have continued.
"I wanted it more than anything," he said. "This team was groomed over the last three years or so to be what it is now and it was.
"I thought this would be my wonder year. I thought we'd have an awesome team. Well, we did have an awesome team, but I thought we might go far.
"Winning Cook County is wonderful. The teams up here are really good. That's a great accomplishment.
"We could have won state. This team is really good and it just didn't work out right."
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