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KINMUNDY – A solo home run from junior Larry Schoreck was all South Central needed to win what was a pitcher’s duel in a regional semifinal game against St. Elmo last Wednesday.
The Cougars came away with the 1-0 win after senior Derek Harmeier and junior Colby Bushue combined to hold the Eagles to just two hits and one walk.
South Central was unable to secure its sixth straight regional championship on Saturday, however, falling to North Clay, 11-1.
“They have lots of seniors on that team,” said coach Curt Jones of North Clay after defeating St. Elmo. “We’ve played against them for three years, and we know each other like brothers and sisters. There are no secrets.
“They are supposed to win,” he said. “I’ll be pretty pleased if we can challenge them.”
That didn’t quite pan out, though, as the Cardinals scored off Harmeier early and often, plating five runs in the first two innings and forcing the senior ace out of the game after just 1 2/3 innings of work.
South Central scored its lone run in the second. After two walks and a single loaded the bases, Bushue, who pitched for Harmeier in relief, brought in Schoreck on a fielder’s choice.
North Clay would add five runs in the fourth and went up by 10 on a sacrifice fly in the fifth to end the game.
The Cougars closed the season at .500, with a 12-12 record, while the Cardinals advanced to the Red Hill sectional to play Dieterich on Thursday.
The semifinal game was the complete opposite, with a total of three pitchers battling to a near stalemate.
“They are solid pitchers,” said St. Elmo coach Ryan Beccue of Harmeier and Bushue. “We knew we had our work cut out for us, because they are both solid and give them a great chance to win.
“We feel like Connor Beasley gives us a chance to win, and he did,” he said. “I’m proud of his effort.”
Beasley had eight strikeouts over six innings of work, including four straight in the middle of the game, but from Jones’ standpoint, that number was too high.
Jones said the lack of offense from the Cougars – four hits – was a concern considering the time of the year, but he was pleased to advance to the regional title game.
“I don’t know if I expected to be here, but we played against large schools all spring long and when you play schools your own size, you hope that pays off,” he said. “I’m very pleased where we’re at. A year ago, we would have gotten beat by (St. Elmo).”
Beasley’s one mistake came on the first pitch of the third inning, and Schoreck, who Jones said can be a dangerous hitter occasionally, hit it over the centerfield wall.
St. Elmo had its best chance to score in the fourth inning, after senior Kase Stolte singled and stole second, and junior Blaine Scholes walked.
“They capitalized on our mistake, and we didn’t capitalize on theirs,” Beccue said.
Junior Woodsen Savage would ground into a 6-4-3 double play to end the inning.
“That was a scary inning, but turning double plays is something we practice religiously,” Jones said. “We don’t celebrate turning double plays, because that’s routine.”
Schoreck later scored a second run during the fifth inning, but on an appeal, it was determined that he did not touch third base while trying to score on a single by junior Luke Krajefska, so he was called out to end the inning.
In the sixth, St. Elmo junior Ben Sperry threw out South Central’s Cole Armstrong as he tried to steal second. That play would prove to save a run.
“When we have Ben behind the plate, we are so much better,” Beccue said. “He’s still getting better, and we’re looking forward to having him back next year to make a lot of big plays.”
Harmeier, who pitched the first two innings, returned to the game for the seventh, and struck out two batters and induced a ground out to end the game.
Jones brought Harmeier back in, not because Bushue was pitching badly, but because he knew Harmeier would make the Eagles earn any base runners.
“He’s not going to walk anybody,” Jones said. “He’s going to come in, throw strikes and you have to beat him.”
South Central vs. North Clay
South Central vs. St. Elmo