There were many important moments in Central’s wild 13-12 victory over Greenville on Saturday in the championship game of the Class 2A Greenville Regional.
But perhaps the biggest was freshman Dylan Wilson doing what no other pitcher could do: contain the opposing team’s offense.
Wilson, the Cougars’ fourth pitcher and third in three innings, retired four of the five hitters he faced to preserve the win, which took 2 1/2 hours to secure.
“He pitched an inning or two at the varsity (level),” Central coach Kevin Crask said. “But I knew from watching him through the year, he’s got movement and he’s got control of his movement, and that’s what we needed at the end. I didn’t need fastballs; I needed a lot of curveballs, and he was able to control them.”
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Wilson relieved sophomore Trevor Kohrmann and retired junior Dillon Hallemann on a popup to short to end the sixth, stranding Greenville runners at first and second. He recorded the first two outs of the seventh before allowing a long double to left to senior Chantz Kunkel. Wilson finished with a flurry, slipping a pitch over the inside corner to strike out senior Kaeden Mollett.
“He’s been playing a lot of select ball in the summer, so the pressure as been on him, I think, most of his life,” Crask said. “So I knew he would be able to handle it. Coach (Ryan) Meyer has done a great job coaching him. I’m excited.”
Central (17-14) will play Althoff (19-8) at 4 p.m. Wednesday in the semifinals of the Vandalia Sectional. Althoff defeated Dupo 5-4 in eight innings to win the Dupo Regional on Saturday.
Greenville, which trailed 5-0 after one and 6-0 after two, scored six in the fourth and three in the fifth to take a 9-6 lead. But the Cougars sent 12 men to the plate in the fifth and scored seven runs to take a 13-9 lead.
The Comets, however, responded with three more runs in the sixth, getting within 13-12 on senior Craig Faulkner’s RBI single. But Wilson quashed the rally and completed the save in the seventh as Central won its fifth regional title in school history.
“I think we hit the ball good,” said Cougars junior Brent Timmons, who hit a three-run homer to left in the first against senior Jacob Hall to give Central a 5-0 lead. “We had some good innings pitching and we just got the job done when we needed to. It was going to come down to the wire, for sure. We’re a good team. I knew we were going to come back.”
The Comets (21-13) scored all of their runs with two outs, giving them 17 two-out runs in their final two games. Greenville scored five runs with two outs in its 10-5 victory over Mater Dei in the regional semifinals Thursday.
“We just couldn’t get it done on the mound today,” Greenville coach Todd Hutchinson said. “When you score 12 runs, you think you’ve got a pretty good chance.”
Greenville started Hall, who surrendered five first-inning runs and was able to record just two outs. Hallemann completed the first and second, but was relieved in the third by sophomore Ryan Hutchinson.
Hutchinson finished off the third and threw a scoreless fourth, then got into trouble in the fifth when he allowed Timmons’ single and walked senior Houston Kruse.
Todd Hutchinson summoned his other son, Tyler, a senior, retired only two of the eight hitters he faced in the deciding fifth when Central took the lead for good. Juniors Mitchel Rule and Austin Rakers had RBI singles to make it 9-8, and senior Brandon Richter had a fielder’s choice that drove in the tying run.
Senior Dakota Auer and Timmons each walked with the bases loaded to put the Cougars ahead 11-9, and Todd Hutchinson brought Ryan Hutchinson back into the game from left field. He was greeted by Kruse’s two-run single that extended Central’s lead to 13-9.
Hutchinson set down the final four hitters he faced, including all three in the seventh, but the damage was done.
Todd Hutchinson blamed himself for the handling of his pitchers.
“I pulled the trigger too quick on Ryan,” he said. “That was the difference-maker in the game. You can’t keep asking Tyler to go out and do what we’re asking him to do. That’s totally on me. You just learn from it and move on.”
Tyler Hutchinson knelt on the infield grass after giving way to his younger brother, obviously upset about his performance.
“He’s an emotional kid that wears his heart on his sleeve and wants to do everything he can for the program,” said Todd Hutchinson, in his 22nd season. “He’s been around here (about) as long as I have. This means a lot to him. He’s had a great four years for us.
“We just ran out of time today. We didn’t lose, we ran out of time. We couldn’t find a way to finish it.”
The teams combined for 25 hits, 14 by Greenville, and 14 walks. Five of Central’s 11 hits came in the fifth, a comeback that made Crask proud of his team’s resiliency.
“We took time and I said, ‘Guys, look at the scoreboard. We’ve been to put five runs up in the first inning,’” Crask said. “And we look at what we did (Friday against Carlyle). We were able to put some scores up almost every inning. I said, ‘We can’t just give up. This is where we’ve got to make contact and see what happens.’ They did that, so I’m proud of them.”