Kellen Lake tossed a two-hitter and went the distance Wednesday, leading the Central Cougars to a stunning 2-1 upset of top-seeded Carlyle at the Class 2A Wesclin Regional.
Since losing 12 of their first 16 games, the young Cougars (12-19) --who typically start three sophomores and two freshmen -- have turned things around by winning seven of their last 12.
That includes a 5-2 victory Monday over rival Mater Dei 5-2 in the first round of the regional on another complete-game performance by Mitchel Rule.
The Cougars pushed the winning across in the sixth inning with two outs, breaking a 1-1 tie.
Freshman Jack Strieker reached on an error, Houston Kruse walked and Kolby Schulte also reached safely on an Indians error, with Strieker scoring on a wild throw.
Central will face the winner of Thursday's Greenville-Wesclin semifinal in the regional championship game at 11 a.m. Saturday at Trenton City Park.
Carlyle (22-10) had beaten the Cougars twice this season, 7-3 and 5-1.
Lake (3-3), who plans to walk on to the baseball team at Olivet Nazarene, was able to remain focused despite two weather-related delays.
"My changeup was working a lot, it was sliding away from the right-handers and running in on the lefties," said Lake, who had a previous complete-game win over Greenville.
Central coach Kevin Crask was impressed with Lake's work and control.
"It's not that they didn't hit the ball, he only had one strikeout and walked two," Crask said. "He was able to locate his fastball almost all night. He had a little bit of movement on his changeup and it was just enough to keep their kids from getting the barrel on the ball."
Rule was 2-for-2 for Central while Schulte, Dillon Smith and Brent Timmons had the other hits. The Cougars also took advantage of five errors by Carlyle, the defending regional and sectional champs.
Carlyle's only two hits were singles by Adam Alexander and Alex Voss. Losing pitcher Logan Zachry also threw well, allowing only four hits and two unearned runs while striking out three.
It was the second straight complete game by the Cougars, who are looking for their first regional title since 2006.
"What helps is most of them have never been in this situation, so they don't understand the pressure," Crask said. "To them it's just another game. I tell the kids every day 'What do you have to lose? Go out and leave everything out on the field.'''
Central also got a diving catch by shortstop Brandon Richter in the seventh to avert further offensive damage and center fielder Dakota Auer hauled in a deep drive off the bat of Carlyle's John Becker.
"Coming into this year we only had one senior returning, so we had two, maybe three kids that had any varsity experience whatsoever," Crask said. "I think they're finally getting it."
"At the beginning of the season it started out rough, but the past 10 or 12 games we've been pulling together," Lake said. " Our confidence has been through the roof."
The Gibault-Nashville semifinal Wednesday at the Nashville Regional was postponed because of bad weather in the bottom of the first inning with Nashville leading 1-0.
The game will resume from that point at 4 p.m. Thursday, followed by the other semifinal game between Althoff and Freeburg.
New Athens Regional
New Athens 10, Marissa 0
At the Class 1A New Athens Regional, the host Yellow Jackets (15-17) advanced to the championship game thanks in large part to Nick Ozier.
Ozier went 3-for-3 with a double, home run and four RBIs and also tossed a one-hitter with eight strikeouts in the six-inning game.
Alec Wade was 2-for-4 with two RBIs for New Athens and Charlie Rousan was 2-for-3.
Lebanon 8, Sandoval 0
At the Class 1A Lebanon Regional, the host Greyhounds (11-15) reached the championship game as Zach Becherer allowed one hit in four innings and struck out 11. Zach Grob and Joe Adams drove in two runs each for Lebanon while J.C. Villmer was 3-for-3 with an RBI.