By TRAVIS MORSE
---- — MT. VERNON – Spirits were high Thursday morning as the Mt. Vernon Rams took off for Joliet to compete in the state finals.
The team's bus departed from Mt. Vernon Township High School at around 10 a.m., surrounded by parents and well-wishers. Team members had a four-and-a-half hour ride ahead of them, but were brimming with confidence about the games to come.“It's a great feeling to know we're doing something that's never been done within the school and I know that we have the right group of guys that are out there that can get the job done,” said Sawyer Harrison, a senior who plays third base. “We've got great leadership. We've got nine seniors on the team and we've got 14 guys on the team that can step up and do their job whenever they're called upon.”Many other team members shared Harrison's optimism. Junior outfielder Zack Jines said he knew his team had the potential to go to state and that the players should excel there despite tough competition.“I think we have a pretty good shot because we're going up there to win both games and not just (going) up there to be there,” Jines said.Parent Shawn Williams was excited to see her son, Matthew, competing at the state level for the first time. Matthew Williams is a senior short stop.“This team has been together for such a long time and I hope they do well and play well,” Shawn Williams said.As far as strategy is concerned, the team should keep up the quality defense, pitching and hitting that has taken them so far already, said senior left fielder Clayton Reeves.“Just stay with how we've been playing right now,” Reeves said.Harrison said he expects the “little things” to play a big role in how the games turn out.“It could be a bunt, it could be a pick-up, it could be anything,” Harrison said. “It's the four best teams in the state right now.”Making it to state has been a “dream come true” for all the players, said Todd Flota, father of senior second baseman and pitcher Trevor Flota.“This team was very successful as youngsters, too,” Todd Flota said. “They went to several zone tournaments so they were very successful throughout life in a lot of different sports.”