EFFINGHAM — Thanks to the heroics of senior Cody Massey, the Triad Knights will live to play another day after defeating the Mascoutah Indians 2-1 Thursday in a Class 3A Effingham Sectional semifinal.
Massey drilled a one-out single in the bottom of the eighth inning to score Dalton Johnson with the game-winning run, as Triad (27-11) advanced into Saturday's championship game against Mount Vernon. Game time is 11 a.m. in Effingham.
The Rams (29-7-1) advanced by beating host Effingham 4-0 in their semifinal Wednesday.
Held in check by Mascoutah ace Ryan Netemeyer, the Knights watched in disbelief as the Indians junior made a remarkable play when he threw out lead-off hitter Lucas Criley to start the bottom of the eighth.
But four pitches later, Johnson lined a double that hit off the bottom of the left-field fence. The Indians then issued an intentional walk to Keaton Wright to put runners on first and second with one out.
Massey then lined a pitch into right, bringing home Johnson with the winning run.
"I wasn't surprised at all when they walked Keaton (Wright). For one, it set up a potential double-play situation and he (Wright) has been the guy who has come through all year,'' Massey said. "It was a curveball up and I hit it hard.
"It felt good because I've been injured and then last week I had a high fever and didn't feel well.''
Massey's clutch-hit put an end to a classic pitching duel between two of the best in the metro east, as Netemeyer and Triad ace Jordan Felax battled to a 1-1 draw through seven innings.
Reliever Jakob Thomas retired Mascoutah (22-15) in the top of the eighth inning, which set the stage for Massey's big hit in the bottom of the inning.
"There were a lot of different emotions in that last inning. From him (Netemeyer) making that great play to lead off and then having Dalton (Johnson's) ball hit the bottom of the fence," said Triad coach Jesse Bugger. "And no I wasn't surprised either when they walked (Keaton) Wright.
"Cody (Massey) had a great at bat and got the big hit for us.''
The Knights got a break in the bottom of the second inning to take a 1-0 lead.
Lucas Infanti singled to lead off and then stole second.
One out later Netemeyer fanned Jared Crutcher, but on strike three the ball got away from the catcher and rolled up the first-base line. Crutcher inadvertently hit the ball while running to first base and Infanti took third.
Mascoutah coach Don Eddy, feeling Crutcher had kicked the ball, argued the play and was told by umpires he could not leave the dugout for the remainder of the game.
Following the play, Netemeyer walked the next batter to load the bases and when Lucas Criley grounded out, Infanti scored to put Triad up 1-0.
Eddy was diplomatic when asked about the call following the loss.
"The play in the second inning? I'm not going to comment on that,'' Eddy said. "It was a great ball game and I thought teams played very well.
"I'm proud of my kids. They played hard and they fought until the end. We won a regional, which was one of our goals. It's just that this one hurts. We had some chances that we didn't score on.''
Felax was rolling along after stranding four Mascoutah baserunners in the first two innings. The Indians' run came in the fourth inning when Austin Waugh doubled to lead off and want to third base on a bunt by senior Zach Lindsay.
Waugh then scored the tying run on a sacrifice fly by Maciek Milas, and it stayed that way until Triad won it in the eighth.