The Okawville Rockets came painfully close to reaching the state basketball tournament, losing in the super-sectional.
When the Rockets’ baseball team got a second shot at a super-sectional victory Tuesday, it cashed in reservations to the Class 1A state tournament in Peoria this weekend following a 5-3 come-from-behind victory over Concord Triopia at Lincoln Land Community College.
“To be on both teams going to sectionals, going to super-sectionals ... it feels great with all these guys,” said Okawville shortstop Alec Wisneski, whose two-run single helped ignite a four-run fifth inning that wiped out an early 3-0 deficit against the Trojans. “We were all getting frustrated. We were all hitting it hard, but we kept hitting into outs. Ben (Schuette) got on and we just added on from there.”
Okawville senior Nick Strubhart handled the subtraction, removing any hope of further Triopia damage once he replaced starter Mason Drury with two outs in the third inning and the Rockets down 3-0.
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Strubhart (3-6), a senior right-hander, set down the final 13 Triopia batter in succession in 4 1/3 innings of spotless and hitless relief.
“Nick came in and just mowed them down,” Wisneski said, and he was spot on.
Strubhart struck out six of the 13 hitters he faced and did not allow a ball to be hit out of the infield.
“It’s pretty great,” Strubhart said. “I wasn’t sure how I was going to feel because I didn’t have any time to warm up or anything, I just came in from centerfield. After the first inning I felt really nice. I had to let everything out because I didn’t want it to the be the last game.
“I just let it all out.”
The Rockets (16-17) may not have a winning record, but they have a shot at the school’s first state baseball title. They will make their first state baseball tourney appearance since 1992 at noon Friday when they take on Okaw Valley in the semifinals of the 1A state tournament at Dozer Park in Peoria.
Okawville coach Jackie Smith marveled at Strubhart’s clutch performance.
“That’s senior leadership,” Smith said. “That’s what you expect out of your seniors, to lead by example. The ball doesn’t always go to you at the start of the game, but my dad always said it’s not who starts, it’s who finishes - and he finished the game for us very well.
“I’ve got all the confidence in the world in Mason, he’s going to do great things for us the rest of the way. We’ve got four guys that can go out there and get outs at any given time.”
Two Okawville errors helped lead to a three-run third inning by Triopia, but the Triopia defense repaid that favor in the fifth.
After Schuette reached on a leadoff single, back-to-back bunts by Shane Ganz and Noland Crane were misplayed by the Trojans.
“The scouting reports told us that a lot of people up north don’t like to bunt, so if we wanted to bunt it would be something they didn’t come across,” Smith said. “I felt pretty confident with our speed and our bunting ability that we’d get some baserunners there.”
Smith saw the future as Wisneski stroked a two-run single to left and Drury followed with an RBI single to tie it 3-3. Brad Fuhrhop’s hit kept the inning rolling and Strubhart pounded a sacrifice fly to center that chased in the eventual winning run.
“I thought our approach at the plate was pretty sound,” Smith said. “We made good solid contact on a lot of pitches and it was a matter of time before we started pushing some runs across. It’s tough when they get down like that, but we were down 3-0 in the regional championship too and it worked out pretty well for us, so we had confidence we could do it.”
Game at a Glance
The Okawville Rockets fought back from an early 3-0 deficit Tuesday and came back to defeat Concord Triopia 5-3 to win the Class 1A Springfield Super-Sectional and advance to the state baseball tournament for the first time since 1992.
Okawville (16-17) fell behind 3-0 in the third, then fought back with four runs in the fifth and added another in the sixth. Senior reliever Nick Strubhart relieved starter Mason Drury with two outs in the third and retired 13 straight batters to close out the win, holding the Trojans (21-11) hitless.
Okawville will face Okaw Valley in a semifinal game at noon Friday at the Class 1A state tournament in Peoria, which is played at Dozer Park.
Two Triopia errors on back-to-back Okawville bunts loaded the bases with no outs in the fifth and set the stage for what became a big inning.
Will Alexander singled and Wyatt Logsdon doubled and Griffin Greene drove in a run with an RBI groundout. An Okawville error led to another run and Matt Burrus hit an RBI single. Triopia 3, Okawville 0
Ben Schuette led off with a single and Triopia made back-to-back errors on bunts by Shane Ganz and Noland Crane. Alec Wisneski followed with a two-run single and Drury added an RBI single that tied it 3-3. Strubhart’s sacrifice fly put the Rockets on top to stay. Okawville 4, Triopia 3.
Ganz reached on a Triopia error and scored on a two-out RBI single by Drury. Okawville 5, Triopia 3.