Centennial, M-S to meet for regional title
RANTOUL — Jeff Lindgren is only a sophomore.
He didn’t throw like one Thursday afternoon.
Centennial relied on its effective reliever to deliver a 6-3 victory against Champaign Central in a Class 3A Rantoul Regional semifinal game at Wabash Park.
The top-seeded Chargers (21-15) advanced to a 10 a.m. regional final Saturday against Mahomet-Seymour, which beat Rantoul 5-4 in 14 innings late Thursday.
Lindgren allowed one hit in 41/3 innings. In a game beset by control problems — starters Jeff Lavin of Centennial and Alec Altmyer of Central combined to walk nine batters and hit three while both did not last past the third inning — Lindgren located the key item.
The strike zone.
“I thought he showed pretty good poise on the mound,” Centennial coach Rich Hyde said. “He came in and put all that to rest by just attacking the strike zone with his fastball. I was really proud of him the way he competed.”
He showed why Thursday. The right-hander struck out five and issued one walk in throwing 70 pitches, 49 of which went for strikes.
Lindgren admitted to a little bit of nerves at the beginning of his first postseason appearance, which featured strong winds and chilly temperatures.
“Coach told me to be ready whenever,” Lindgren said. “When I was able to find the strike zone, I calmed down.”
He had to in the top of the sixth. Central put runners on first and second with two outs before the Maroons (19-18) sent up Kurtis Brown to pinch hit.
Brown, Central’s best hitter who suffered a hamstring tear a week ago, belted a deep fly ball to right field. But with the wind blowing out, Austin Johnson hauled it in about 10 feet shy of the fence.
“I just tried to keep it low and away,” Lindgren said. “I didn’t want to get it up there. He put a good ride on it, but it stayed in the park.”
Drake Peratt supplied a two-run single for Centennial in a five-run second inning that increased the Chargers’ lead to 6-1. It was the only hit of the inning as Altmyer hit two batters and walked three.
“I knew we needed a couple runs, so I tried to do my best with my swing,” Peratt said. “I was able to get the ball through the infield.”
Grey Schultz (1 for 2, two RBI) also contributed for the Chargers, who got to Altmyer early before reliever Zach Dorner (42/3 innings, three hits, no runs) stymied Centennial’s offense.
Lindgren did the same to Central, which received an RBI double from Jake Cribbett (1 for 3) in the first and an RBI single from Nick Brunson (1 for 2) in the third.
“He got into a zone and shut them down,” Peratt said. “It’s a big responsibility against our rival team. It’s hard to be in that situation, but he came through.”
Mahomet-Seymour 5, Rantoul 4. Any predetermined pitching plans Nic DiFilippo had for Saturday are not kaput.
Even after his Bulldogs outlasted Rantoul in 14 innings Thursday night, setting up a Class 3A regional championship game against top-seeded Centennial.
Mahomet-Seymour’s Brad Herrmann drove home the game-winning run with a double to the left-center gap in the top of the 14th. Joe Kenney scored the go-ahead run, sliding headfirst across home plate even with no throw on the play to give the Bulldogs (16-8) the one-run lead.
“That’s the kind of things we expect out of our seniors,” DiFilippo said. “He’s a three-year starter for us, and he’s a leader for this group.”
Rantoul’s Kolton Vermillion tied the game at 4 in the bottom of the fifth with an RBI single to left field. Then, Herrmann and Luke Pannbacker of Rantoul engaged in a pitchers duel that didn’t end until Herrmann’s heroics.
Pannbacker and Herrmann threw the equivalent of a complete game — and then some — even though both pitchers didn’t enter the game until the sixth inning.
“That’s got to be one of the best high school games around here in a long time,” DiFilippo said. “I haven’t decided on a Saturday starter. I’ve got 11 pitchers, so I’ve got nine to go to pick from.”
Rantoul had a chance to win the game in the bottom of the seventh inning. But the Eagles (19-9) left the bases loaded when Jacob Frerichs lined out softly to Bulldogs second baseman Tyler Francisco.
Kenney made sure the game went to extra innings with his defense in the bottom of the seventh. Eagles catcher Chris Deaville had a single that seemed destined for left field before Kenney kept the ball on the infield, preventing Cord Church from scoring.
Rantoul took an early 2-0 lead after the first inning on an RBI single from Deaville (3 for 7). But M-S tied the game at 2 in the top of the third after a single by Jack Rettig scored Cully Day (2 for 6) and a Rantoul error — one of five committed by the Eagles — brought home the tying run.