With Waterloo’s Noah Thaggard working quickly and pounding the strike zone Thursday, the Mascoutah Indians never had time to settle in at the plate.
Thaggard scattered four hits and struck out seven, hanging up six scoreless innings until allowing a home run in the seventh during the Waterloo Bulldogs’ 6-1 semifinal victory over Mascoutah at the Class 3A Freeburg Baseball Regional.
“I’m starting to realize some things that are starting to help me and working quick really helped me today,” Thaggard said.
“He took a step forward a couple weeks ago when he pitched against Gibault,” Waterloo coach Mark Vogel said of an eerily similar game May 19 that saw Thaggard allow three hits and strike out eight in a 6-1 victory. “He’s always had good stuff and he’s been very inconsistent for most of the year. Something clicked there and he’s just been throwing lights out ever since.
“He’s always had the stuff, it’s a matter of pounding the strike zone and he’s doing that now. When he does, that he gives us a chance to win.”
Waterloo (23-11) will face Freeburg (27-5) in the regional title game at noon Saturday. Freeburg, which reached the Class 2A state tournament last season, beat Waterloo 5-3 on April 6.
Thaggard (5-4) extricated himself from some potential trouble in the first inning when Mascoutah’s first two hitters reached safely on a single and a hit batter. Thaggard quickly regrouped and retired Jeff Hightower, Noah Dressler and Chase Barnes, then allowed just one more hit over the next five innings until Mascoutah senior Wyatt Elbe unloaded in the seventh for a solo homer.
“I was kicking myself a little bit, but I knew,” Thaggard said of the home run. “I had to just let it go and I could think about it after the game. He hit a bomb off of me and that’s all that I can do is just pitch to the next batter and forget about it. That’s what I did.”
Thaggard said the rocky start got to him briefly against the Indians (22-15), who split two games with the Bulldogs in Mississippi Valley Conference play.
“I came out and I wasn’t as focused as I should have been,” he said. “Well, I was focused I just wasn’t completely ready. I had to come together and get my routine, pull myself together and I got out of it. That was a big boost for our team.”
So was a two-out, two-run single by Waterloo senior three-sport athlete Ryan Aycock in the third off Mascoutah starter Daniel Milas (5-6) that broke up a scoreless duel.
“Ryan has a lot of experience,” Vogel said of Aycock, hitting .410 with 25 RBIs. “He’s played 12 seasons of sports for us at Waterloo High School, so he’s been in just about every situation — including playing in a regional game a couple years ago as a sophomore against Mascoutah and got three hits.
“He’s seen it all and we kind of look to him to be our leader both on and off the field. He got the big hit to get us going today.”
Mascoutah had only five baserunners until Elbe’s homer in the seventh.
“We obviously hoped to make more out of the first inning than we did,” Indians coach Don Eddy said. “We didn’t hit much. (Thaggard) did a good job of working ahead and throwing strikes and mixing speeds, which is a credit to him. His defense made a lot of good plays behind him and they helped him out, too.”
Waterloo played without leading hitter Tyler McAlister, a junior hitting .458 with seven home runs and 33 RBIs. Vogel said McAlister is sitting out a multi-game suspension for disciplinary reasons and will not be available for the regional championship Saturday.
Game at a Glance
Waterloo pitcher Noah Thaggard held Mascoutah scoreless until the seventh, scattering only four hits overall as the Bulldogs pounded the Indians 6-1 Thursday to reach the championship game of the Class 3A Freeburg Regional.
Waterloo (23-11) will face Freeburg in the championship at noon Saturday.
Thaggard was sharp, allowing four hits and striking out seven.
BIG INNING: Waterloo took a 2-0 lead into the fifth inning, whern the Bulldogs broke things open with four runs off of Mascoutah starter Daniel Milas and reliever Noah Kraljev.
WATERLOO THIRD: Quinten Albrecht singled and Kane Osterhage walked before Ryan Aycock hit a two-out, two-run single.
Waterloo 2, Mascoutah 0
WATERLOO FIFTH: Osterhage reached on a one-out single and Erik Kaiser made it 2-0 with an RBI single to left. Cole Kaiping followed with an RBI single before Milas walked Ben Maurer and Christian Schmidt to force in two more runs.
Waterloo 6, Mascoutah 0
Mascoutah senior Wyatt Elbe homered to left-center for the Indians’ only run off Thaggard.
Waterloo 6, Mascoutah 1