McHood snaps Storm's winning streak

DANVILLE — What he didn’t do on the mound at Danville Stadium, Argenta-Oreana junior Keegan McHood did from the batter’s box.

McHood (9-1) stymied Salt Fork on four hits Thursday, striking out nine in a 3-2 Class 1A baseball sectional semifinal triumph against the Storm. McHood hit a two-run double to the left-field wall in the fifth inning, enabling the Bombers to expand a 1-0 lead. The loss ended a 23-game winning streak for the Storm (24-3).

“(McHood) is the real thing,” Salt Fork coach Gary Hansgen said. “He has a nice fastball, works quickly and spotted his breaking ball. I can’t imagine a tougher sectional in the state.”

Salt Fork got on the board in the bottom of the fifth, scoring both of its runs.

Jordan Eakle and Colton Baird singled before Ross Learnard reached on an error, allowing Eakle to score. Baird tallied the team’s final run on Noah Darr’s sacrifice fly.

“These guys were as good as anybody we saw in Peoria (at the 2013 state tournament),” Hansgen said, “and we put the ball in play.”

Learnard (8-1) pitched five innings, striking out 13 and allowing one hit. Cole Taylor finished, fanning three and allowing one more hit in the last two innings.

“Their pitchers really threw well,” A-O coach Tom Saunches said. “We struck out 16 times and still won.”

Hansgen said he’s retiring after coaching a special group of players.

“We had a bunch of kids who listened and who did stuff on their own,” Hansgen said. “There were a lot of self-starters, and when you have guys like that, you have a chance to be pretty good.”

Learnard recorded four strikeouts in the first inning. The A-O runner who scored in the second inning, Taylor Ferrill, reached after striking out on a curveball in the dirt that eluded the catcher.

Saturday’s 1 p.m. championship game between A-O and St. Teresa will be a rematch between schools that played each other in 2013 in the Class 2A regional finals, which A-O won.

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