Mascoutah's Ryan Netemeyer was vulnerable in the first inning Saturday, but the senior right-hander was in lockdown mode from that point.
Netemeyer threw a complete-game two-hitter and struck out nine as the top-seeded Indians defeated second-seeded Waterloo 5-1 for the championship of the Class 3A Waterloo Regional.
All of Mascoutah's runs were unearned, as the Bulldogs were charged with four errors. It's the second consecutive regional title for the Indians (30-6), who will play Jerseyville (24-12) at 4 p.m. Thursday in the semifinals of the Triad Sectional.
"This team we're playing with right now, we grew up together, played together, so I think this is our year," said Netemeyer, who improved to 8-0 with a 1.09 ERA. "This is more a stepping-stone for what we can achieve. I'm excited. We'll see how we can do."
Netemeyer, a Southern Illinois University Carbondale recruit, allowed an unearned run in the first as the Bulldogs (20-14) grabbed a 1-0 lead. But he retired 20 of the final 23 hitters he faced, with only four balls being hit out of the infield.
"Ryan did a great job only letting them get one run in that first inning," said Mascoutah coach Don Eddy, whose team has won nine in a row. "Then after that, we were able to put on two, and he settled in and did a great job. He's been our ace since his sophomore year.
"He's done a phenomenal job. He helped win us a big ballgame. We hope we can keep going for another few weeks."
Mascoutah scored the only runs that proved necessary in the first, the start of a disastrous defensive game for the Bulldogs.
Indians senior Collin Renth led off with a single against Waterloo senior Austin Nunnery, who allowed three unearned runs on five hits in four innings. Two outs later, senior Austin Waugh reached on an infield single.
Senior Jacob Pratt followed with a towering fly ball to the edge of the track in left field. Junior Brett Degener was under the ball, but it glanced off his glove for an error that scored Renth and Waugh to give Mascoutah a 2-1 lead.
In the third, Indians senior Alex Oltmann doubled past third. A throw to second was late and off the mark, but Waterloo senior first baseman Zach Schaab was backing up the play. However, the ball went through Schaab's legs as Oltmann took third and scored on Netemeyer's sacrifice fly to center that made it 3-1.
A one-out throwing error by sophomore shortstop Kane Osterhage put Waugh at second with one out in the sixth. Pratt then walked against senior Tyler Hebel, who had pitched out of a first-and-second, no-out jam in the fifth.
Junior Chase Barnes followed with a single to right-center to score Waugh and make it 4-1. Junior Wyatt Elbe followed with a well-placed squeeze bunt that scored Pratt to make it 5-1.
"You can't give up five (unearned) runs when a guy like Netemeyer is on the mound," Waterloo coach Mark Vogel said. "We did a good job getting on top in the first inning, but we didn't make a play in the first inning and it got momentum back on their side.
"We've seen Netemeyer enough. He's a great competitor, and that's all he needed. From then on, he turned it up a notch."
Senior Johnny Albers and Schaab had Waterloo's only hits against Netemeyer, who walked two.
Osterhage walked to led off the game, went to second on Netemeyer's wild pickoff attempt and to third on Netemeyer's wild pitch. One out later, Schaab hit a grounder to first baseman Renth, whose throw home was off-line as Osterhage scored.
Netemeyer closed the inning with strikeouts of sophomore Tyler McAlister and senior Reid Hoffmann, and the Bulldogs had just one other runner advance as far as second base.
"I knew we had the hitting to bounce back from an inning like that, so I wasn't too worried about it," Netemeyer said. "I needed to settle down a little bit (after the first). I had my emotions get the best of me out there."
Contact reporter David Wilhelm at email@example.com or 239-2665.