Strong pitching on display when Gibault takes on Lebanon

News-DemocratMay 21, 2013 

It may not take a lot of offense to get the job done when Gibault takes on Lebanon in a 4:30 p.m. sectional semifinal game Wednesday at Blackburn College in Carlinville.

Gibault (20-11) will send junior left-hander Zach Neff (5-2, 2.3 ERA, 60 strikeouts in 45 innings) to the mound against Lebanon junior right-hander Zach Becherer (7-1, 2.35 ERA). Becherer has only allowed 18 hits and 13 earned runs in 38 2/3 innings with 61 strikeouts for the Greyhounds (14-7).

Gibault beat Lebanon 11-1 on May 7 with neither team using its top pitchers, but Lebanon has won four straight since then while allowing only three runs in the last four games.

Neff has developed into the staff ace for Gibault and was a big part of the Hawks' regional championship a year ago.

"What makes Zach so good is his ability to locate his pitches," Gibault coach Andy Skaer said. "Especially his fastball, he has really good command at keeping the ball down and hitting the corners. Then he comes back with a changeup and curveball and is pretty consistent hitting spots with those, too."

Becherer and sophomore Zach Grob (5-2, 1.99 ERA, 71 strikeouts in 45 2/3 innings) helped Lebanon stage a rare undefeated run through the Cahokia Conference's Kaskaskia Division. It was Lebanon's first league title since 2000.

"I have a confidence in (Becherer) as an equalizer against good hitting clubs like Gibault," second-year Lebanon coach Dave Causey said. "Their lineup is impressive, I see it as a much more athletic lineup than ours. We got a good dose of what they can do (the last game).

"But I think if we keep it close and hang in there with them, a ball can bounce one way or the other for either team."

Skaer has been preaching to his players about the type of overconfidence that comes from an 11-1 win over the same opponent they are about to play again.

"As a coach, you know the postseason is way different than what you're going to see in the regular season," Skaer said. "A lot of guys were on the basketball team this winter that won a regional and got to play in the sectional final. We've got a good number of kids with playoff experience in one sport or the other."

Gibault's hottest hitters recently have been junior shortstop Wes Degener (.453, seven doubles, four triples, 20 RBIs, 21 stolen bases) and senior designated hitter Will Shepherd (.263, 23 RBIs).

Shepherd drove in four runs in the regional championship and Degener is hitting .536 in his last 10 games with a .650 on-base percentage.

Leadoff hitter Mitch Meyer (.351, 11 doubles, three triples 10 RBIs, 40 runs scored, 19 stolen bases) is hitting .420 over his last 10 games.

Gibault's other top offensive threats are Matt Schreder (.357, six doubles, 25 RBIs) and Chandler Purcell (.375, six doubles, 19 RBIs).

Lebanon's top threats are junior shortstop Taylor Schmitt (.478, four doubles, eight triples, three homers, 29 RBIs; slugging percentage .899), sophomore second baseman Grob (.459, five doubles, 14 RBIs), senior first baseman Mason Christ (.373, six doubles, 16 RBIs) and senior third baseman Kyle Parker (.313, four doubles, two homers, 11 RBIs).

Contact reporter Norm Sanders at 239-2454, nsanders@bnd.com or on Twitter @NormSanders

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