The Mascoutah Indians basked in history Saturday.
The Indians defeated Salem 2-1 in the nail-biting championship game of the Class 3A Triad Sectional --their first sectional title in baseball in school history.
"This is why you do it," jubilant Mascoutah coach Don Eddy said. "It's fun. These kids have worked hard; they've worked hard all winter lifting weights and running. It's paying off. We'll go see what we can do Monday."
Mascoutah (32-6) will play Springfield Sacred Heart-Griffin (36-3) at 5 p.m. Monday in the Sauget Super-Sectional at GCS Ballpark. The Cyclones defeated Normal University 6-3 on Saturday to win the Sacred Heart-Griffin Sectional.
Senior Alex Oltmann and junior Chase Barnes were the heroes for Mascoutah. Oltmann fired a complete game and struck out four and Barnes drove in both runs with a fourth-inning single.
The game ended in dramatic fashion, with Oltmann getting Salem senior Zach Tate on a popup to first, stranding senior Evan Maxey at third. Tate had been 3-for-3 against Oltmann.
"I knew he had my number all day," Oltmann said. "I knew he was able to get hits, and I wanted one more chance at him. He came up and luckily I got him out at the time --in a big situation.
"At that point, I was going off of the crowd. They were getting excited and I got momentum going with me. I just tried to throw a strike on the edge and see if he would make a mistake vs. me making a mistake. He hit a popup and Collin (Renth) caught it."
Barnes' hit made it 2-0 and provided Oltmann with all the support he needed. Barnes spanked a pitch from sophomore left-hander Riley Martin into right field, scoring Oltmann and senior Austin Waugh.
Oltmann led off the fourth with a single to left, and after senior Ryan Netemeyer struck out, Waugh singled to center. Senior Jacob Pratt struck out, but Oltmann and Waugh executed a double-steal, and Barnes made the move pay off with his clutch hit.
"He threw it outside and I just went with the pitch and took it to right field," Barnes said. "Any time A.O. (Oltmann) is on the mound, we know we have a chance to win. We backed him up with defense and we had enough offense to win."
Oltmann complimented Barnes.
"Chase is the man. He does it all the time," Oltmann said. "He started coming through late in the season and in the postseason. He gets the hit whenever we need it."
Salem (27-10) also was shooting for its first sectional title in school history. Martin permitted five hits, walked one and struck out seven, but it wasn't enough.
"It came down to one pitch to No. 17 (Barnes)," Wildcats coach Brad Lipe said. "Coach Eddy's team is a battling team; they put the ball in play. (Barnes) got a pitch outside and probably even off the plate and he went with it. That was the difference."
Eddy avoided a cooler of water being dumped on him when the Indians won the regional May 31. But he relented Saturday.
"I made them a deal. I said if they won the sectional, they could have me," Eddy said.
Oltmann walked two and allowed five hits. The Wildcats had runners on base in every inning but the sixth when Oltmann went through their Nos. 4, 5 and 6 hitters in order.
Salem's only run against Oltmann was unearned and came in the fourth. Shortstop Netemeyer was unable to come up with a towering popup by senior Sam Beavin, who reached first on the error.
Netemeyer, however, then made a fine play to his right and threw out junior Mason McIntosh at first as Beavin took second.
Martin followed with a smash to first that took a high hop over Renth and rolled into right field, scoring Beavin to cut Mascoutah's lead to 2-1.
Oltmann struck out senior Jared Banning and walked Maxey before retiring senior Wyatt McGhee on a foulout to catcher Waugh.
With one out in the seventh, Maxey placed a perfect bunt between home and third that went for a single. Oltmann fielded the ball, however, and threw wildly past first as Maxey went to second.
McGhee grounded out to second as Maxey took third, setting up Oltmann's battle against Tate.
"I kind of blocked that out as soon as it happened," Oltmann said of his throwing error. "It was going to be a tough play. If we do make that, that's one we're going to live with and say, 'That's a great play.' But if we don't make it, we've just got to try and turn the page on that. It was a good bunt by that kid. It would have taken a great throw."