O’Fallon senior Brad Harrison hit a solo homer and worked his way out of a tight seventh-inning jam Saturday, helping the Panthers hold off Alton 2-1 to win the Class 4A Alton Baseball Regional championship.
O’Fallon (32-5) will face Belleville West (24-8) in the sectional semifinals Wednesday after the Maroons upset the Edwardsville Tigers 8-4. O’Fallon and Belleville West split two games this season, with O’Fallon winning 10-0 and West winning the most recent battle 5-4.
O’Fallon had a 1-0 lead when Harrison hit a solo home run in the fifth inning. The Panthers took a 2-0 lead into the top of the seventh when Alton began chipping away.
Robbie Taul walked and Aaron Bonnell followed with a single. Steven Pattan’s RBI single cut the O’Fallon lead to 2-1. Harrison avoided further trouble when O’Falon left fielder Hayden Schaefer threw out Bonnell at the plate for a game-ending double play.
“It was a very good, strong throw; all in the air, no bounce,” O’Fallon coach Jason Portz said. “It was a little bit up the first-base line, but (catcher) Chase (Hackstadt) was positioned well and made the catch and tag.”
Ironically, Schaefer is typically a middle infielder and just began playing outfield this season with the Panthers looking to get his bat in the lineup somewhere. He was 2-for-3 on Saturday.
“He’s always been a middle infielder and always had some offensive upside,” Portz said.
O’Fallon got its other run in the third inning on an RBI single by Jared Dalonzo.
“Our kids played extraordinarily well,” Portz said. “I do not think Alton could have played a better game, they played terrific and put themselves in position to win. Sometimes it just takes a break here or a break there.”
Now 12-0, Harrison allowed four hits and one run, striking out eight while walking two.
“He was outstanding and had all of his pitches working today,” Portz said.
Okawville 8, Valmeyer 0
Shane Ganz was the man in charge for the Okawville Rockets on Saturday.
Ganz fired a two-hit shutout with six strikeouts and also was 3-for-4 with a double and RBI to help his team to an 8-0 victory over Valmeyer that gave the Rockets their second straight Class 1A Carlinville Baseball Sectional championship.
Okawville eliminated Valmeyer in the regional championship last spring and this time took the Pirates (22-15-1) out in the sectional.
“His fastball was locating well,” Okawville coach Jackie Smith said of Ganz. “He pitched a lot of the hitters away and was breaking his curveball over extremely well. Shane’s battled back from some injuries; he hasn’t had a game where he’s gone the distance so when he hit the fifth innign and was cruising along we were going to let him keep going.
“There’s no way we weren’t going to give him the baseball today.”
Okawville (18-14-1) advances to play Abingdon-Avon (28-3) in the Springfield Super-Sectional at 4 p.m. Monday at Lincoln Land Community College in Springfield. The Rockets finished second in the state last season and also have made extended playoff runs in basketball featuring many of these same players.
“That experience counts,” Smith said. “They know the mindset they need to be in going into the big games. It’s special for them, but at the same time they know how to mentally prepare for it.”
Okawville freshman Will Aubel got things rolling with a two-run triple in the third off Valmeyer starter Michael Chism.
Brad Fuhrhop hit a two-run homer while Noland Crane went 2-for-4 with two doubles and an RBI. Drew Frederking also had two hits while Easton Wallace and Drake Hicks had the hits for Valmeyer.
Okawville spread out the scoring and piled up 13 hits on the day.