Down to their last out in the seventh inning Wednesday and trailing by two runs with the bases loaded, the Granite City Warriors were still quite comfortable with junior Chad Spanberger at the plate.
Spanberger got a 2-0 fastball and deposited it over the fence in right-center for a game-winning grand slam to give Granite City a stunning 7-5 semifinal victory over top-seeded O'Fallon at the Class 4A O'Fallon Regional.
"When I hit it, I didn't think it was out and then when it went over it was just like the movies, just insane," said Spanberger, one of the state's top catching prospects who committed to Arkansas last August. "I touched home plate and I just started tingling, like I went numb. It's amazing. It only happens once in a lifetime."
Granite City (16-20), seeded last out of five teams in the regional, advanced to the championship game and will face the winner of Thursday's semifinal between Belleville East and Belleville West for the championship Saturday at 11 a.m.
Spanberger, hitting .402 with four homers and 22 RBIs before Wednesday, was 2-for-3 with a double, a grand slam and five RBIs.
"Chad is such a good player and we expect so much out of him," Granite City coach John Moad said. "He expects a lot out of himself, too. He doesn't feel like he had his best year and now you can throw the stats out the window -- because that's the guy we wanted up in that spot and he delivered."
Granite City loaded the bases on a walk, a bunt single and an O'Fallon error. The Warriors popped out for the second out, leaving Spanberger at the plate with the season on the line.
"When he hit it, the first thing I said was 'That's not going to be caught' because I knew we were going to tie the game," Moad said. "Then when it went out ... you're at a loss for words when something like that happens. I was just so proud of the kids. After the season we've had and a lot of tough losses, it feels really good to see a smile on their faces."
O'Fallon (23-13) had a 4-1 lead with ace pitcher Tyler Herbert on the mound. After Granite City scored twice in the top of the sixth to cut the deficit to 4-3, O'Fallon added a run of it own to make it 5-3.
"Maybe it was finally our time against them," Moad said. "To beat a team like O'Fallon, who is year-in and year-out one of the top programs in the state. ... They do a lot of things right. We're very happy to win that game."
Alex Godair had a double for Granite City, which was outhit 12-6, and Brian Nemsky had a sacrifice fly. Jordan Askins (2-4) got the win in relief, allowing one unearned run in 2 1/3 innings, while Ryan Miles pitched two scoreless innings.
O'Fallon had runners at second and third in the bottom of the seventh before Askins wriggled out of the jam.
"You feel for your kids and it reinforces why you tell kids to play high school sports, anything can happen at any time," O'Fallon coach Jason Portz said. "Congratulations to them, what a clutch hit by a good player. I feel bad and my heart's broken for my kids.
"He got himself in a hitter's count and he let loose. That's what good hitters do."
Bradley Harrison had two RBIs for O'Fallon, while Ethan Wild and Tanner Hudson also drove in runs.
Granite City edged Collinsville 2-1 in its tournament opener just to get a shot at O'Fallon. Now the Warriors have a load of confidence heading into the championship game.
"We've got to bring them back down to earth to play Saturday, they're pretty high right now," joked Moad.