EFFINGHAM – Senior Colby Bushue made sure that if South Central was going to lose in the sectional semifinals last Wednesday, it wasn’t going to be because he didn’t give his best effort.
After allowing hits to the first two Windsor batters to spot the Blue Devils an early 1-0 lead, Bushue struck out the next five batters, started a two-run rally with a leadoff single in the bottom of the first and then drove home two more runs with a single in the second inning as the Cougars cruised to an 11-2 victory.
“I was a little scared after the first two batters,” Bushue said. “I thought, ‘This might be ugly.’”
Bushue and the Cougars couldn’t repeat their magic in Saturday’s championship game, however, falling to St. Anthony, 5-0, garnering just one hit off the Bulldogs’ ace, Reed Willenborg.
“He was dominating,” said coach Curt Jones.
In the semifinals, Bushue was pretty dominating himself after the first two batters.
He finished off the first inning by striking out the next three batters and then led off the bottom of the first by rifling the fourth pitch of his first at-bat into center for a single.
Junior Fischer Tharp reached on an error, and both runners moved ahead on a wild pitch. Senior Colton Wilkins then delivered a double to give the Cougars a 2-1 lead.
“I was pretty pumped after that, helping to get us on the scoreboard,” Bushue said.
In the bottom of the second, the first two Cougars walked, and junior Bret Pitts moved them to second and third with a sacrifice bunt.
Bushue then roped another single into center to bring home two runs and give South Central (20-11) all the scoring it would need for the game.
“It was Colby Bushue day, as far as I am concerned” Jones said. “He was the one on the hill, he was the one who gave us the lead and then some others contributed later on.”
Most notably, junior Heath Hoffmann had a 3-for-4 day, and Wilkins and junior Drake Ritter each had a pair of two-run hits.
Even better from Jones’s standpoint, however, was that the Cougars were hitting the ball all over the field.
South Central scattered 13 hits in the game, with four going to each outfield position and one coming on a bunt.
“That’s what we work on all the time,” Jones said. “Every day in practice, everything out of my mouth about hitting is about using the whole field.
“Hopefully, this is why you preach it, because today was pretty good because of that.”
Through the first three innings, Bushue had recorded eight of his nine outs via strikeouts, and a strong fourth inning from the Cougar offense really put the game out of reach for Windsor (19-12).
Pitts opened the inning with a double, and he was moved to third after Bushue hit a ball off of the pitcher for a fielder’s choice.
Tharp laid down a successful suicide squeeze bunt, and senior Cole Armstrong followed with a walk. Wilkins then delivered a two-run single to put South Central ahead, 7-1.
Hoffmann followed with a single, and senior Luke Krajefska drew a walk after an infield fly was caught for the second out of the inning.
Ritter slashed a double to left to bring home Armstrong and Wilkins, and knock the life out of the Blue Devils.
Windsor did string together three straight hits to open the sixth, creating a run, but a runner was thrown out trying to advance home on a wild pitch and the third out came on when a batter watched strike three go by, handing the momentum right back to the Cougars.
“I thought if (Bushue) threw strikes, kept the ball down and we made plays, we would be in the game,” Jones said. “We have very little power, so we have to do a lot to score runs.”
Ritter had a two-run single in the seventh to give South Central its final run total, with Wilkins, who walked, and Hoffman, who singled, scoring.
Wilkins pitched the seventh, striking out two, including the game’s final batter.
Wednesday, May 23
at St. Anthony Sectional
South Central 11
WP: Bushue (2-1); 6 IP, 9 K, 2 R, 2 ER, 5 H, 2 BB
LP: Hubbartt; 2 IP, 0 K
Cougars: Wilkins, 2-for-3, 2B, 4 RBI, run, BB; Ritter, 2-for-3, 2B, 4 RBI, BB; Hoffmann, 3-for-4, 2 runs; Bushue, 2-for-4, 2 RBI, run; Tharp, 2-for-4, RBI, 2 runs, SB; Pitts, 1-for-3, 2B, run, sac bunt; Larry Schoreck, 1-for-3; Armstrong, run, BB; Seven Wright, run; Krajefska, run, 2 BB; Austin Schwarm, run.
Saturday, May 26
at St. Anthony Sectional
St. Anthony 5
South Central 0
WP: Willenborg; 7 IP, 12 K
LP: Krajefska (4-5); 7 IP, 4 K, 5 R, 3 ER, 7 H, 4 BB
Cougars: Armstrong, 1-for-2, 2B.
South Central Baseball, South Central Cougars, Colby Bushue, Colton Wilkins, Luke Krajefska, Cole Armstrong, Heath Hoffmann, Drake Ritter