BELLEVILLE — Carlyle's winning playoff formula Saturday included one monster swing of the bat by Matt Hilmes and the pinpoint pitching of Cody Huels.
Hilmes crushed a solo homer in the first inning and Huels hung zeros on the scoreboard the rest of the way in a 1-0 win over Mater Dei in the championship game of the Class 2A Althoff Regional.
"It was a changeup, but I got fooled on about every other at-bat by a changeup," Hilmes said of the pitch from Mater Dei lefty Mitchell Langenhorst he drove over the fence in right-center. "The nastiest changeup I've seen, probably the best lefty around here for sure. He threw it inside, I got my pitch and ripped it."
It was a good thing he did because Huels (6-3) and Langenhorst (4-3) retired batters so quickly and efficiently the game lasted just an hour and 25 minutes.
It was the first regional title since 2008 for Carlyle (24-7), which will face Nashville (25-9-1) at 4:30 p.m. Thursday at the Nashville Sectional.
"You knew good and well going into this game based on straight numbers, their guy's good and our guy's good," Carlyle coach Dusty Barr said. "One blast. You don't always like to play a game like that because it feels like as a coach I'm not doing anything, but sometimes that's baseball.
"Good pitchers go out there and they shut people down."
Huels sidestepped danger in the top of the first when Mater Dei's Adam Richter led off with a single and was bunted to third with one out.
But as he did all afternoon, Huels relied on location and confidence to escape any further difficulty.
"To start off the game you can't let up the first run," Huels said. "I feel like the first team to score usually wins, so I kept the ball down, tried to pound it in there and make them take bad swings and hit the ball to my defenders."
How good was Huels?
Mater Dei had only four men reach base the rest of the game as he scattered five hits and walked one with three strikeouts. Langenhorst was just as sharp, allowing three more hits after the homer.
"He was in the groove," Hilmes said of Huels. "You could tell the last two innings it was pitch after pitch. When he's in the groove there's no way a team's going to beat him."
Mater Dei never found an answer. The Knights got a two-out double from Nolan Haake in the fourth and a leadoff single from Haake in the seventh, but couldn't push a run across.
"Give their kid credit, he was pretty crafty and tough," Mater Dei coach Marvin Eversgerd said. "He had us just enough off balance I think that we couldn't center the ball with a lot of swings. We hit the ball pretty good at times, I thought we put the bat on the ball a lot.
"We just couldn't put it together to get a couple runs."
Langenhorst was equally effective, limiting Carlyle's potent lineup to four hits and the one run.
But the pitch that proved to be decisive hovered on the inside part of the plate and Hilmes drove it over the fence for the game's only run.
It was eerily like Mater Dei's 1-0 first-round regional win Monday over Central that saw the Knights win on a solo homer by Richter.
"He's got some pop," Barr said of Hilmes. "He's a big, strong kid and he's getting stronger. I don't think you've seen what he can be just yet."
Huels had supreme confidence in his defense.
"They've been playing great all year," he said. "Zero errors today; I couldn't be more proud of these guys. Once I had the lead I knew that there was no way I was letting this one up.
"Even if I do let up one or two, I knew my guys would battle back and get us back in there."
Many of Carlyle's players have been starting for three or four years and had not been able to celebrate anything in the postseason.
"As a coach sometimes you get caught up in all the negativity of coaching and you don't really enjoy good times that you have, so it's nice to enjoy a good time after a few years of bad times," Barr said. "And these kids, the same boat. They've had some rough times and they're enjoying it now."