COLUMBIA — When his team had a triple and a double in its first two at-bats Wednesday, coach Don Eddy knew it was going to be a good day for the Mascoutah Indians.
Mascoutah scored twice in the first and kept tacking on runs to back the strong pitching of Ryan Netemeyer in a 7-2 semifinal victory over Columbia at the Class 3A Columbia Regional.
"That was huge," said Eddy, whose 21-14 club will play either Waterloo or Freeburg for the regional championship at 11 a.m. Saturday. "Any time you can come out and score runs early it makes you feel more comfortable. I pointed out to the kids, too, that we scored in five of seven innings. Any time you can score in five of seven innings you're giving yourself a very good chance to win games."
The same can be said with having Netemeyer (6-1) on the mound. The junior right-hander and Southern Illinois University Carbondale recruit limited a tough Columbia lineup to seven hits and two runs, striking out seven.
"They can definitely hit the ball well," Netemeyer said. "They made solid contact on almost every pitch, even if it was a foul ball. I was just hitting my spots mostly and switching it up with offspeed and then coming back with fastballs. My defense really helped me a lot today."
Mascoutah's Rob Pearson, who was 3-for-4, led off the game with a base hit that took a sudden high hop over the center fielder's head and rolled toward the fence for a triple. Indians shortstop Alex Oltmann, 3-for-4 with two RBIs, raked a pitch from Columbia starter Josh Fleming (3-3) off the fence in left for a run-scoring double. Oltmann came in to score on a squeeze bunt by Austin Waugh, who reached safely four times and had two hits, including a triple.
"I've got to give all the credit to them," said Columbia coach Keith Jany, whose top-seeded Eagles closed out the season 22-13. "They had a good approach at the plate and came out and swung the bats well. They found the holes; Josh had a hard time getting down in the (strike) zone. He didn't have his best stuff, but competed and still kept us in the game."
The Eagles got a run back in the first on Evan Dake's triple and an RBI single by Brendan DePoy. DePoy was 3-for-3 with a double and two RBIs in his final high school game before heading on to Rhodes College.
Oltmann's RBI single in the second pushed Mascoutah's lead to 3-1 and Alex King drove in another run in the third. Maciek Milas had a run-scoring single in the fifth and the Indians added two more in the seventh to reach the title game.
"This last two weeks we've had a much better offensive approach," Eddy said. "Strikeouts have gone down and balls in play have gone up."
Netemeyer allowed only one baserunner from the second through the fifth innings. When the Eagles did the ball hard, it usually was right at a Mascoutah fielder and with Netemeyer pitching well, the deficit was too big to overcome.
"We knew we could come back, it just got a little too deep for us," Jany said. "It's a tough hole to dig yourself out of. We tried and we battled, today just wasn't our day."
Waterloo (22-9) takes on Freeburg (20-14) in the other regional semifinals at 4:30 p.m. Thursday.