A small brush fire of danger quickly ignited into a full-scale blaze for the O’Fallon Panthers on Saturday at the Class 4A Bloomington Sectional championship.
O’Fallon trailed 4-3 heading into the bottom of the fifth, only to watch Plainfield South score nine runs to blow things wide open in a 13-3 victory that sent the Cougars on their way to the Champaign Super-Sectional.
“We swung the bats — and that’s probably the first time all year we’ve swung the bats like that,” said Plainfield South coach Phil Bodine, whose team improved to 24-12 and had lost 3-1 to O’Fallon back in March. “Baseball’s a crazy game. We have one senior, 17 juniors, two sophomores and a freshman and the last quarter of the season we started playing real good baseball.”
Already leading 10-3 in the fifth, the Cougars got a bases-loaded double by Nick Enloe to chase in three runs and end the game via the 10-run rule.
O’Fallon (33-6) entered the game ranked 18th in USA Today’s Super 25 national rankings, but had used senior ace left-hander and Southern Illinois University Carbondale recruit Brad Harrison in the sectional semifinal win Wednesday over Belleville West. Plainfield South will face Providence Catholic at the Champaign Super-Sectional on Monday.
O’Fallon starter Max Schaefer (7-2) kept things fairly close until the fourth, then reliever Logan Boente and Bradley Snyder were unable to slow down the Cougars during the nine-run fifth.
Sometimes baseball’s a pain, but you’ve just got to live with it and fight. Usually there’s another day, but today there wasn’t so it’s a tough one.
O’Fallon senior Brad Harrison
The Panthers took the loss hard and couldn’t hold back the tears, especially the seniors playing their final game Saturday at Illinois Wesleyan University’s Jack Horenberger Field.
“Sometimes baseball’s a pain, but you’ve just got to live with it and fight,” Harrison said. “Usually there’s another day, but today there wasn’t so it’s a tough one. You always want to be on the mound to try to be in control and just kind of do what you can for your team.
“Especially as a senior, knowing that it could be your last game, that any game could be your last game. But you also have to put your faith in your guys and I did. I thought they competed well, they put a good effort out there.”
Facing Plainfield South junior right-hander and University of Connecticut recruit Konnor Ash, O’Fallon jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the first. Dillon Weiss doubled and scored on Snyder’s RBI single.
Ash also surrendered a solo homer to O’Fallon’s Hayden Schaefer leading off the second, then buckled down and went to work. He allowed just two more hits and left with two outs in the fifth having racked up eight strikeouts.
A two-run double by Cody Phillips tied it in the second and RBI singles by Cody Phillips and Jonn Galczak gave the Cougars a 4-2 lead in the fourth. The Panthers sliced it to 4-3 in the fifth on a double by Josh Gibson, a single by Weiss and a sacrifice fly by Jared Dalonzo.
Ash walked Snyder and Harrison to load the bases before Bodine summed flame-throwing Mississippi State recruit Austin Marozas to the mound. Marozas quickly shut things down by getting Jordan Richardson to hit into a force play and the Panthers never got another at-bat.
We’ve had better days than today and our program will continue to work real hard and keep working toward our goals.
O’Fallon coach Jason Portz
“Sure, that was huge,” Bodine said. “It was 4-3 at the time and (Marozas) told me this morning ‘Coach I’ve got two innings in me’ and I said ‘How about if I just need a batter’ — and there it was. Thank God we scored the runs and didn’t have to do anything other than that, because these guys could have come back in a second, no doubt.
“It’s just one of those days. They’re a great program, a great team.”
O’Fallon was held to five hits by Ash and Marozas while Plainfield South banged out 13 hits.
Phillips was 2-for-w with a two-run double in the second, an RBI single and also was hit with the bases loaded to force in a run in the fifth. Jordan Mikel was 3-for-3, Enloe was 3-for-4 with four RBIs and Gabe Wair was 3-for-4 with a double.
“We got back to 4-3 there in the top of the fifth and we felt like we were starting to get some momentum,” O’Fallon coach Jason Portz said. “We were chasing a little bit and (their pitcher) was pretty dynamic with his breaking pitch,. Eight strikeouts in four innings, that’s not going to put a lot of pressure on the defense.
“We’ve had better days than today and our program will continue to work real hard and keep working toward our goals.”