O’Fallon’s baseball team more than held its own against some of the Midwest’s top competition last weekend at the PBR High School Midwest Select Tournament in Westfield, Indiana.
After dropping the opener 8-5 to Our Lady of Providence (Indiana) on April 13, OTHS exploded for 25 runs the final two games and posted two wins to finish tourney action 2-1.
Following the loss to Our Lady of Providence, the Panthers rolled to an 8-1 verdict against Portage Northern (Michigan) on April 13, before concluding tournament play the following day with a decisive 17-7 triumph against Mason (Ohio) in six innings.
The outcomes improved O’Fallon’s record to 16-1-1 entering games this week.
“Overall, we played very well this weekend,” OTHS coach Jason Portz said. “I thought our pitching was excellent, and offensively, we continued to produce baserunners and limit strikeouts.”
In the tournament opener, OTHS raced to a 5-0 lead, but Our Lady of Providence — which Portz noted has multiple Division I players — posted eight unanswered runs to prevail.
“A few plays here or that that we were not able to make brings a different outcome to the game,” he said. “Our guys battled hard in this game.”
In Game 2, a four-run sixth putting the finishing touches on O’Fallon’s win. Senior Garrett Herring went 4 1/3 frames for the victory, fanning six. Fellow senior Adam Drewry also pitched 2 2/3 innings, and struck out six as well.
Senior Nick Boone, meanwhile, went 4-for-4 with an inside-the-park home run and three RBIs. Junior Matthew Albritton added two hits and drove in two runs.
“We were in control of this game from the start,” Portz said. “Garrett Herring gave us a quality start, and Adam Drewry came in and shut the door on a (Portage Northern) threat when the game was still in limbo.”
In the tournament finale, Portz’s club pounded a Mason squad that entered the game 10-1 with a No. 1 ranking in Ohio. A six-run second inning had the Panthers off and running and they rolled from there.
Albritton paced a 17-hit attack with four hits and five RBIs, while Boone posted three hits and three RBIs. Senior Brayden Arnold added three hits and drove in one run, and senior Nathan Martin collected two hits and two RBIs.
Senior Marc Rodriguez went 5 1/3 innings to earn the win, while classmate Nathan Kellermann also threw well.
“Mason is traditionally one of the top programs in Ohio, and this year is no different,” Portz said. “Mark Rodriguez and Nate Kellerman were outstanding on the mound, and among the many standouts offensively were Brayden Arnold, Matthew Albritton and Nate Martin."
Overall, Portz said the team’s pitching and positional depth stood out from the weekend. Specifically, the Panthers did not use their Nos. 1-3 pitchers due to conference games last week and this week, but the tournament allowed the team to stretch out their pitching staff and see how the hurlers could perform in unfamiliar roles.
Portz also noted several position players produced in tight situations against the outstanding competition.
Needless to say, Portz enjoyed tournament, and was proud of the Panthers’ showing.
“This was an excellent event, and our guys were one of the showcase teams in it,” he said. “The effort that they put in the field each time out is second to none that I have had. This group is very close and wants to see each other have success and ultimately all our players are willing to put their individual successes aside for the team’s success.”
O’Fallon was scheduled to face Edwardsville in a Southwestern Conference battle Tuesday. OTHS then is scheduled to take on visiting Alton at 4:30 p.m. Thursday at Blazier Field in another conference tilt. The Panthers carried a 5-0 SWC mark into the Edwardsville contest.
Then, on Saturday, O’Fallon is scheduled to play Missouri foes Lutheran South at 10 a.m. and CBC at 4 p.m. at Blazier Field.
All in all, as May creeps closer, Portz is pleased with O’Fallon’s performance this spring, but noted the team can continue to improve in all facets. He figures this will happen once more typical spring-like weather occurs, allowing for a more consistent practice routine.
“We have had a very good start to the season,” Portz said. “However this team has much, much more in the tank. I think as the weather improves we will see this team start to speed up and play the game at another level that we have not seen.
“As we are able to get into a more consistent practice routine, this team will start to create more of an identity with their specialty: Defense and offense … things that take time to progress through practice and repetition.”