Spartans, Warriors reach Sweet 16

Spartans, Warriors reach Sweet 16

BLOOMINGTON — Bringing a boisterous dugout to a high school baseball game can sometimes affect the product on the field.

There's no saying if that's how Bloomington Central Catholic jumped out to a 2-0 lead through one inning Wednesday afternoon versus St. Joseph-Ogden, but there was no doubt the Saints were looking to set a tone.

"It obviously provides a little bit (of motivation)," Spartans junior Brayden Weaver said. "But you've got to keep a level head when you go out there and just not listen to the guys in the dugout."

Piling up runs to silence the opposing bench entirely can't hurt, either.

SJ-O batted around three times and finished one hitter away from No. 4 over the final six innings, overwhelming the host school 16-8 in a Class 2A Bloomington Central Catholic Sectional semifinal game between two Illini Prairie Conference rivals at McGraw Park.

"We were going to bust out at some point," Spartans coach Josh Haley said, referencing SJ-O's collective six runs in its two regional wins last week. "We're grind-out-at-bats guys, and we get on base. But we have guys up ... who are capable of hitting."

That started Wednesday with the bottom of the lineup for the Spartans (27-8-2).

Weaver's two-run single in the second inning not only tied the game, but set off a string of 12 consecutive tallies for SJ-O.

Weaver produced two RBI and scored three runs out of the No. 8 hole, and junior Drew Coursey one spot ahead reached base four times and knocked in two runs.

"Try to be patient, just not do too much," Coursey said of his approach at the dish. "Put the ball in play, get on base (and) start something from the bottom."

A quartet of Saints hurlers issued 11 walks and one hit batter, amounting to seven Spartans runs. Leadoff man Adam Rose was the biggest winner in this regard, scoring three runs on two free passes and a plunking.

"We put them in a lot of 2-0, 3-1 counts," Bloomington Central Catholic coach Nick Knight said. "It's a lot easier to hit whenever you're in the count like that at the plate."

Keegan McCarty and Rose couldn't totally silence the Saints, who eventually trimmed a 10-run deficit through three frames to as little as four runs.

"We just had to trust our bats and trust that we were going to keep hitting the ball," Weaver said, "and trust that our guys were eventually going to start making plays."

SJ-O stumbled on this stage, versus Olympia, last year. Haley said the program doesn't necessarily try to use such experiences as fuel.

No matter how it happened, though, the Spartans will gun for their third sectional crown in the last four campaigns on Saturday morning.

"We can't conform around (the opponent)," Coursey said. "We'll play whoever wins (the other sectional semifinal), and hopefully we'll come out with a win."

Tuscola 8, Clifton Central 3. The third time through the batting order was the charm for Tuscola in Wednesday night's second Class 2A Bloomington Central Catholic Sectional semifinal game.

Tuscola jumped on Clifton Central pitching in the fourth and fifth innings en route to its second consecutive appearance in a sectional championship game when the Warriors play St. Joseph-Ogden at 11 a.m. on Saturday.

"We've got to make quicker adjustments," Tuscola coach Adam Carver said. "That third time through, started seeing the ball a little bit better (and) hitting the ball the other way."

Cade Kresin boasted three hits and four RBI for Tuscola (29-2), topped with a two-run triple in the fifth. Will Little, Brayden VonLanken and Logan Tabeling (one RBI apiece) also cashed in, and Jalen Quinn crossed home plate three times.

"(Kresin's) seen the ball well all year," Carver said, "and that's continued in the postseason."

All of this supported Lucas Kresin, who threw a complete game and struck out eight for the Warriors.

"He's confident. He trusts all his pitches. Everything moves for him," Carver said. "So he's a tough guy to hit against."

It'll be Tabeling, a Wright State commit, who draws the sectional final pitching assignment against SJ-O. The two teams met back on March 19 and the Warriors won 11-5 in Tuscola.

With Tuscola trying to defend — or even improve — its 2A state third-place effort from 2018, Carver is looking for more of the same from the experienced Warriors.

"Just come out and play our game," he said. "If we play well and come out and swing it the way we can ... I think we've got a good shot."