The O’Fallon Panthers kick-started another baseball postseason run Wednesday with a surge of power against Southwestern Conference rival Collinsville.
The top-seeded Panthers blasted three home runs, including a first-inning grand slam from senior Jordan Richardson, in an 11-2 win over the Kahoks in the semifinals of the O’Fallon Class 4A Regional.
“It’s always good to start hot and to stay hot,” Richardson said. “If we can keep playing like we did today, I think we’ll be all right.”
Sophomores Matthew Albritton and Josh Gibson, who hit the game’s second pitch far beyond the fence, also homered to spot O’Fallon pitchers a 9-0 lead before Collinsville batted once through its lineup. O’Fallon sent 10 batters to the plate in the first inning, scoring six runs on four hits.
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The Panthers (31-5) advance to the championship game of their own regional. O’Fallon will play Belleville East at Blazier Field at 4 p.m. Saturday.
“I think any postseason game, any time you can go out and score some runs, it’s going to take some tension out of the players,” said O’Fallon head coach Jason Portz. “Our guys have a lot of respect for Collinsville and any team of the Southwestern Conference and know there is always potential for them to come out and score some runs.”
Brayden Arnold completed two full innings in the start for the Panthers. He struck out four of the six batters he faced and didn’t allow a base runner, but he then gave way to junior reliever Jaysn Miller, who closed out the game.
Miller struck out just one but didn’t walk any through four, efficient innings. Collinsville touched him for two runs on three hits in the fourth but didn’t threaten the rest of the way.
Portz said, with the sizable lead, he wanted to keep Arnold rested and available for relief in needed in Saturday’s title game.
“We’ve got confidence in guys like Miller who can get ground-ball outs and get us through the game,” Portz said. “It allows us to have some flexibility with our pitching, and now we can have Arnold ready in relief if we need him Saturday.”
Collinsville scored both of its runs in the fourth inning. Ryan Siverly singled to lead off the inning and scored an a sacrifice fly to left field by Bailey Reed. Devon Bovinett also singled and later scored on an RBI hit by Hunter Schragge.
Siverly took the loss on the mound for the Kahoks, who finish the season 12-21.