ST. JOSEPH — St. Joseph-Ogden baseball has grown accustomed to getting each and every opponent’s best shot this season.
It comes with the territory.
The Spartans went undefeated in Illini Prairie Conference action this spring, haven’t lost a game in more than a month — and only two at all this season — and are a legitimate Class 2A state championship contender.
Monday’s regional title game was no different.
Oakwood threw all it had at SJ-O, and the lead changed hands multiple times in the first three innings.
The top-seeded Spartans simply had an answer at every turn and extended their win streak to 19 with a 7-4 victory against the fourth-seeded Comets to lock up another home game in Wednesday’s 4:30 p.m. sectional semifinals against second-seeded Shelbyville (20-3). It’s the eighth consecutive regional title for SJ-O under coach Josh Haley.
“I thought Oakwood deserved a lot of credit,” Haley said. “They gave us their best shot and did a lot of good things at the plate against Tyler (Altenbaumer). I thought it was important for us to answer back each inning. We answered everything they did. Every momentum change or opportunity they had, we quickly regained it the next half inning.”
SJ-O’s table setters did their jobs in Monday’s win for the Spartans (31-2). Leadoff hitter Hayden Brazelton went 1 for 3 with two runs scored and two RBI. Altenbaumer was 2 for 4 with two RBI out of the two-hole and came through with an RBI single in the third to tie the game after Oakwood had taken its first lead.
Altenbaumer got the win for the Spartans even after getting roughed up a bit by the Comets. The SJ-O starter allowed four runs — three earned — on six hits and three walks while striking out six in five innings. Josh Young went 2 for 4 with an RBI for Oakwood (14-10), while Koby Fletcher was 1 for 2 with two RBI.
“Tyler didn’t have his best stuff, but he worked through some errors,” Haley said. “We weren’t very clean defensively at times, but he battled out there and made pitches when he had to. We trusted him. There wasn’t ever a situation he would get a quick hook.”
Altenbaumer gave way to Illinois-bound Crayton Burnett, who picked up the save after striking out three in two hitless, scoreless innings of relief. SJ-O’s easy regional semifinal win against Marshall this past Friday allowed Haley to bring back Burnett to close out the title game in advance of sectional play.
“Our whole season is always building momentum for the postseason — your body of work and who you play and how you play and your experiences,” Haley said. “I think we’ve been in about every situation we can be in. At this point, it’s about us playing our brand of baseball and understanding it’s making plays when you have to in big moments.”
Sages fall. Monticello’s Joey Sprinkle broke a 2-2 tie with an RBI single to left field in the top of the fifth inning. The fifth-seeded Sages were in control.
Top-seeded Maroa-Forsyth responded with three runs in the bottom half of the inning and held on to snap Monticello’s 10-game win streak and claim a Class 2A regional title with a 5-3 victory. Jacob Trusner and Cole Smith had two hits apiece for the Sages (14-6), with Smith also driving in a run with a second-inning triple.
Monticello starter Luke Teschke struck out six in 4 1/3 innings, but Dawlton Chupp was saddled with the loss after giving up two runs on two hits in relief.
Warriors shut out. Paris starter Hunter Cash kept Tuscola off balance all game, with the Warriors scattering just three hits across seven innings as their season came to an end with a 7-0 shutout loss in the Class 2A regional championship game. Ben Tiezzi went 2 for 4 with a pair of singles to lead sixth-seeded Tuscola (11-8) offensively against the second-seeded and host Tigers. Patrick Pierce came off the bench for the Warriors’ only other hit. Tiezzi also took the loss, though, giving up seven runs on nine hits and four walks while striking out eight in 4 2/3 innings.