With one big swing Monday, the Valmeyer Pirates were on their way.
Senior Easton Wallace hit a bases-empty home run to right in the first inning to open the floodgates in the top-seeded Pirates’ 12-1 victory in five innings over fourth-seeded Mount Olive in the championship game of the Class 1A Valmeyer Regional.
Wallace added a two-run triple in the second and a two-run double in the fourth to back strong pitching from freshman Philip Reinhardt (7-1), who pitched a five-hitter and struck out five.
“I was really just trying to go out and drive the ball, hit it hard,” said Wallace, who fell just a single short of hitting for the cycle. “The first inning, I got up there and hit the home run to get it going. After that, we kept smoking the ball and put a lot of runs on the board.”
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Wallace wasn’t sure his home run, which came on an inside fastball from junior left-hander Caden Monke, was struck well enough to clear the wall.
“I knew it was close, but I was just running,” Wallace said. “This was my best game of the season. I was feeling good. I was confident up there. (Monke) was throwing hard, but I was just going out there and hitting it hard.”
Wallace is hitting .473 (52-for-110) with 23 doubles, four homers and 41 RBIs.
Valmeyer (24-9), which reached the sectional championship last year, will meet Hardin Calhoun (21-14) in the semifinals of the Greenville Sectional at 7 p.m. Wednesday.
“Easton has been our offensive leader all year, him and (Cole) Juelfs getting on base and getting things happenings. They do a great job,” said Valmeyer coach Greg Reinhardt, Philip’s dad. “(Wallace) has good bat speed. The pitcher helped, too, throwing the ball that hard. Great bat speed and speed coming in, that’s a good combination.”
Valmeyer had 13 hits, and everyone in its lineup reached base at least once. Seven of the Pirates’ hits came in their five-run fourth that put them up by 11.
Monke, an Arkansas recruit, allowed six runs (earned) on three hits in two-plus innings. He walked five, struck out two and hit three. He was relieved in the third by junior Joe Baum, who allowed a run in the third and five more in the fourth.
Mount Olive finished 14-6.
“This is my first year head-coaching here, but I’ve had most of these boys since they were knee-high – from T-ball all the way up,” said Wildcats coach Chris Monke, Caden’s father. “They’ve always competed and always been able to rise up to the challenge. We would like to come back here and play these guys again and see if we can make it a little closer.
“Now we see where we need to be.”
Philip Reinhardt gave up his only run in the fourth on a two-out double to junior Zach Tooley. Juelfs and junior Jake Krekel had two hits apiece for the Pirates.