The Okawville Rockets are one win away from the second state baseball tournament appearance in school history and first since 1992.
That opportunity came courtesy of a 5-1 victory Monday over Morrisonville in the championship game of the Class 1A Carlinville Sectional at Blackburn College.
The Rockets (15-17) are still alive despite a sub-.500 record and a somewhat inconsistent regular season. That matters little now with the team on a six-game winning streak after adding a baseball sectional title to the sectional crown won by the Okawville basketball team earlier this year.
Okawville junior Brendan Killion was strong once again, tossing a two-hitter while striking out six.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to Belleville News-Democrat
“The metro-east area is loaded with baseball talent and we play a lot of those teams,” said Okawville coach Jackie Smith, whose team will face Concord Triopia at 4 p.m. Tuesday at the Springfield Super-Sectional at Lincoln Land Community College. “The schedule is top-notch and it helps prepare us for this. It gets you ready to face these teams in the postseason.
“I’ve been blessed with grade-A talent and three fantastic assistant coaches that have made my job really easy.”
One thing that made his job a bit tougher after the sectional championship win was a troublesome bus that wouldn’t start. As a result, players and coaches rode home from Carlinville with parents and fans, but no one was complaining.
“I’m so happy for these kids because we went through a spot where we lost five games by one run,” Smith said. “They’ve been resilient all year.”
Killion has become a playoff wonder for the Rockets.
“He’s been a bulldog the last few weeks and he’s just been throwing the ball so well,” said Smith, in his second season as head. “He really wasn’t my No. 1 early in the year, but he’s definitely got to that point this season.”
Okawville grabbed a 2-0 lead in the third on Alec Wisneski’s RBI double and a run-scoring single by Nick Strubhart. Morrisonville (25-12) got a run back in the fourth and that’s the way it stayed until the seventh, when Mason Drury had an RBI double and Brad Fuhrhop belted a two-run homer.
Wisneski and Fuhrhop each were 2-for-4.
Drury is the expected starter in the super-sectional game Wednesday.
Class 3A Jerseyville Regional
Highland roared into the sectional thanks to a dominant pitching performance by senior Grant Geppert and a relentless offensive attack in an 8-1 regional championship victory over Mississippi Valley Conference rival Jerseyville. Geppert allowed three hits and struck out nine in a complete-game performance.
Highland’s Cody Bentlage was 3-for-5 with three RBis and Sam Green was 2-for-3 with an RBI. WIil Greenwald, Tyler Kimmle and Andrew Winning also had two hits for the Bulldogs (23-9), who face another MVC rival at 7 p.m. Wednesday in the Salem Sectional semifinals when they take on Waterloo (24-11).
Class 4A Alton Regional
Edwardsville ace Kallen Loveless shut down Alton on a two-hitter with 10 strikeouts Monday in the Tigers’ 11-1, six-inning regional championship win. Loveless also added a little offense, going 3-for-4 with a home run and five RBIs.
Hayli Green was 3-for-4 for the Tigers while Jordan Corby had a double and three RBIs and Ari Arnold had two RBIs. Edwardsville (27-4) will face Belleville East (24-9) in the sectional semifinals on Wednesday.
Class 3A Mater Dei Regional
Mater Dei pitcher Aften Richter allowed seven hits and two runs and took advantage of her team’s opportunistic offense as the Knights knocked off Centralia 4-2 Monday to win their own regional.
Mater Dei’s Kelsey Gerdes was 2-for-3 with an RBI while Logan Braundmeier, Emmeryn Wheelen and Sydney Engelhart each had RBI doubles.
Mater Dei (14-11) will take on Waterloo (34-1) in the Mascoutah Sectional semifinals at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday.