Injury sidelines best hitter, but Central tops Urbana in regional opener.
CHAMPAIGN — An injury has cost Champaign Central its best hitter, but Kurtis Brown’s absence didn’t stop the Maroons from advancing in the Class 3A regionals Monday.
Getting a particular boost from the bottom of its batting order, Central jumped to an early eight-run lead en route to an 8-5 quarterfinal victory against Urbana at McKinley Field.
“We were able to hold on,” Maroons coach John Staab said.
Brown has been sidelined since suffering a hamstring tear May 14.
“That really puts a lot of pressure on the rest of the guys, but they stepped up tonight,” Staab said.
Kain Shirley (three hits, two RBI), Nick Brunson (two RBI) and Lucas Wilson (hit, walk) answered the call from deep in the order.
“That enabled us to turn our lineup over a couple times early, so that was big for us,” Staab said.
The Tigers rallied for four runs in the fifth inning and one in the sixth against Central starter Scott Runyan.
“He didn’t have his best stuff, but he battled,” Staab said.
When Runyan (6-6) walked the first three batters in the sixth, his coach visited the mound.
“I talked to him about trying to be too fine with the bottom of the order,” Staab said. “He assured me, ‘Coach, I’m going to get them out.’ ”
Runyan was true to his word, limiting the damage to one run and retiring six of the final seven batters.
Tanner Russell and Brian Summers each had two RBI for Urbana.
Central (19-17) will face Centennial in the semifinals at 4:30 p.m. Thursday at Rantoul.