JOLIET — Blake Burris walked out of the tunnel at Route 66 Stadium in 2017 and heard an abnormal amount of noise.
It made him pause.
The Edwardsville High outfielder was greeted by a sea of orange and black. His ears were overwhelmed by the roar of a crowd as the players were announced.
Then a sophomore, he was stunned by the response.
"I was surprised by the number of people there," Burris said. "For as far away as it was, it was a little overwhelming at the time — but I think going back it won't be as overwhelming."
Burris, now a senior and with plenty of pressure-packed games under his belt, is ready to embrace the final four noise and pressure as the Tigers (35-5) take on Hampshire (22-14) at 5 p.m. on Friday in a state semifinal at Route 66 Stadium in Joliet
"It felt really good (to win the super-sectional)," Burris said. "This was one of our goals to get to the state semifinal and now our goal is to get a win on Friday."
St. Charles North (26-10) will face Chicago St. Rita (32-6) at 3 p.m. in the first Class 4A semifinal. The winners meet at 5 p.m. on Saturday for the state crown.
Edwardsville will be looking for its third championship and first since 1998.
Burris learned from the state experience two years ago and he expects to use those lessons to his advantage.
Senior Dalton Wallace believes that the experience of being there will help, but also uses it to help the younger players, who will be making their first trip to Joliet.
"Just telling them it's another game," Wallace said. "You can't go at it thinking it's the last game or if you're in the state championship even if you are. You can't go at it with that mentality of this team's record its this, we're going to win. You need to show up and play that game."
While this won't be his first time in the state semifinals, coach Tim Funkhouser is not taking the trip for granted.
"We were there two years ago, but you really cherish and value each opportunity you get because it's a difficult task to get to this point," he said. "You can tell that our guys are focused. Their goal was not just to get to this point, but to go ahead and close it out and take care of business each game."
Part of that laser-like focus comes from the demanding schedule that Funkhouser presented the Tigers from the very start of the campaign.
"The competition hasn't changed a lot in the postseason, but that's part of his philosophy," Burris said. "No days off. I don't think we had one off day off all season. We always got a game in no matter what the condition. He scheduled a lot of really good games and a lot of good tournaments."
Edwardsville faced the likes of De Smet (Missouri Class 5 champion), Teutopolis (Illinois Class 2A champion), Waterloo (Illinois Class 3A semifinalist).
While the difficult games were a grind early on, Wallace believes that all those contests prepared them for this weekend.
"He told us all year that's why he set it up for a reason and now we're in the state (semifinals)," Wallace said. "I'm glad he set it up that way. It shows us what we needed to do and what we needed to work on."
As a member of the team that finished second, losing to Crystal Lake South 8-3 two years ago, Burris has been getting constant encouragement from past teams and past teammates, including brother Dylan Burris.
"He's talked about not changing anything in our approach," Blake Burris said. "They're just another group of boys that play ball and for us to continue doing what we've been doing all year. And hopefully we'll come back with something that they weren't able to bring back."