---- — It's been a season of firsts for the state-bound Mt. Vernon baseball team.
The Rams have never been this deep in the postseason tournament.
Mt. Vernon wound its way to the state finals in 2001, but the tournament included a total of eight teams at that point.
When the Rams journey north to Joliet, they will be one of just four teams left in the 3A tournament.
Mt. Vernon's postseason journey started with the Rams rolling past Herrin in the opening round. The Rams knocked off arch rival Centralia in the regional final.
The next stop was the Effingham sectional where the Rams silenced the host team. Mt. Vernon topped Triad in the sectional final. The result reversed a 3-1 loss from earlier in the season against the Knights.
A day later the Rams faced Bloomington in the super sectional and a chance for a berth in the final four.
Mt Vernon jumped out early and took advantage of some mistakes from the Purple Raiders to win 6-1.
The Rams enter the state finals with the school's win record. They are currently 31-8-1.
The Rams celebrated their latest accomplishment on the GCS Ballpark field Tuesday.
Players, fans and well wishers milled around the artificial turf, taking pictures and offering congratulations.
That left time for a few pranks perfectly executed by members of the team.
A pair of players blindsided Mt. Vernon coach Tim Holloway, smearing him with shaving cream, while he was distracted, during an interview with the media.
Moments later more players showered him with water from a Gatorade bucket.
All the coach could do was smile and enjoy the moment.
It's become nearly impossible to score against the Rams.
Mt. Vernon has allowed just three runs in five postseason games.
Brock Fulkerson and Tyler Ellis have pitched every inning of the postseason. Ellis was on the mound for the regional final and super sectional win. Fulkerson pitched the Rams to wins in the regional and sectional semifinals along with the sectional championship.
Departure for State
The Rams will leave for Joliet at 10 a.m. this morning.
Mt. Vernon's baseball team will make the nearly four-hour trek north where they will check into their hotel.
Later that night the Rams will participate in a dinner and a ceremony with the other three 3A teams still remaining in the playoffs.
Friday the Rams face Joliet Catholic at noon.
Paul Hines is the sports editor for the Register-News.