For the Valmeyer Pirates, winning their first baseball regional championship in 45 years called for a special celebration.
“We hopped in a couple trucks and went around town celebrating, honking horns. It was fun,” said Valmeyer senior catcher Mark Nappier, whose 400-foot home run in the bottom of the sixth inning Saturday was the difference as the Pirates edged Metro-East Lutheran 2-1 to win the Class 1A New Athens Regional.
“It was a thrilling experience to be part of it. It took everybody on the team to get the win today and it felt pretty good bringing the hardware back.”
Sophomore Cole Juelfs was sharp on the mound for Valmeyer, tossing a complete-game five-hitter with seven strikeouts. Easton Wallace had an RBI single in the third to erase an early 1-0 deficit and Jake Krekel was 2-for-3.
Valmeyer’s last baseball regional title came in 1971. The Pirates also won regionals in 1960 and 1968 and won a district title in 1951.
The Pirates (21-14-1) will face Nokomis at the Carlinville Sectional at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday.
Valmeyer has a proud baseball tradition that has produced a major league player and pitching coach in Ray “Bud” Rippelmeyer and several professional players. But when it came to winning regional titles, it took the 2016 Pirates to end the long drought.
“It is special,” Valmeyer coach Greg Reinhardt said. “This is a baseball community and it is surprising we haven’t won in a while, but you’ve got a lot of good teams around here. Just to win that first regional, to get over that hump, it’s not easy.
“There’s a lot of pressure on you and being the No 1 seed, but Mark sure took the pressure off us with that home run.”
Nappier’s blast left the park over the left field fence and just kept soaring.
“It was the longest home run I’ve ever hit, by far, said Nappier, a Southwestern Illinois College recruit who has 10 home runs and 49 RBIs.
“They grooved one to him and he hit that thing a mile,” Reinhardt said. “He hit the heck out of that ball. They said the ball ended up like 90 feet past that fence, so he crushed it.”
Once the final out was made, Nappier left his catcher’s position and headed out to the mound to start the celebration with Juelfs.
“I just ran out and grabbed him, we both went down and there was a big dogpile on the pitcher’s mound,” said Nappier, whose graduation party Saturday couldn’t have been timed any better since it included all of Valmeyer’s players and coaches.
“We’re having a lot of fun,” Reinhardt said. “It’s been a long time coming.”
Okawville 4, Odin 2
The Okawville Rockets won their secon straight regional, riding a career-high 17 strikeouts from Missouri Science & Technology recruit Brendan Killion and timely hitting to win its own Class 1A regional.
“I don’t know what it is about the postseason, but his velocity increases,” Okawville coach Jackie Smith said of Killion (7-2), who surrendered only four hits. “He was spotting his fastball. His change-up was on the corner, his curveballs were down in the zone. He was able to locate every pitch.”
Okawville (17-14-1) now faces a rematch with Carrollton at 4:30 p.m. Thursday at the Carlinville Sectional. Okawville edges Carrollton 3-2 in the sectional semifinal last spring on the way to the 1A state tournament
The Rockets got a long home run by junior Noland Crane in the second inning.
“It was into the wind and he just absolutely mashed the first pitch of the inning,” Smith said. “Honestly, that was a dagger for them. It was only one run, but to hit it that far and that hard, it was a dagger.”
Teutopolis 7, Central 6
Centralhad a 5-2 lead in the fifth inning Saturday, but the Cougars couldn’t hang on as Teutopolis came roaring back to win the Class 2A Effingham St. Anthony Regional.
The Wooden Shoes scored three in the fifth to tie it, then added single runs in the sixth and seventh, winning the game on a sacrifice fly in the seventh.
Brent Timmons had three hits, including a home run, and three RBIs for Central (21-8). Kolby Schulte was 2-for-4 with an RBI for the Cougars and Jayce Timmermann added an RBI double. Austen Rakers also drove in a run.
Nashville 6, Du Quoin 4
Nashville trailed 3-1 in the fifth inning, then pushed across five runs in the fifth and came from behind to beat Du Quoin to win the Class 2A Nashville Regional.
Hayden Heggemeier helped secure the win with a two-run single with the bases loaded in the fifth tied the game. Jaris Dalman scored a run from third when Ryan Brink caught caught in a rundown at second base, then Brink came around to score on two throwing errors.
Dalman drove in a run in the fifth on a fielder’s choice grounder.
Austin Anderson got the win in relief of starter Brogan Kemp. Anderson allowed two runs on nine hits in five relief innings while striking out six.
Nashville (27-5) will face Carmi at 4:30 p.m. Thursday at the Du Quoin Sectional.
Southwestern 7, Dupo 1
Dupo’s season came to a close at 17-9 as the Tigers lost to Southwestern in the championship game of the Class 2A Gillespie Regional.
Dakotah Corby was 2-for-3 with three RBIs for Southwestern (23-9), which scored the game’s first seven runs. Collin Baumgartner was 3-for-4 with an RBI.