Will play No. 1 Aurora in semifinal round on Friday, June 1st at CarShield Field in O'Fallon starting at 6:30 p.m.
You had to be there to believe it Thursday night in a Class 4 quarterfinal game at Twillman field in Harley park.
With the Pirates staring at a 6-0 deficit after three home runs in the first-three innings by Westminster Christian Academy, the cardiac kids once again pulled out all the stops in a seven-inning thriller by rallying with seven unanswered runs for a 7-6 victory.
Boonville, 24-1 on the season, will now make their fourth Final Four appearance on Friday, June 1st against No. 1 Aurora, 29-1, in the semifinal round at CarShield Field in O’Fallon starting at 6:30 p.m.
Aurora won another nailbiter in their quarterfinal game against Helias Catholic 1-0.
Boonville Pirates baseball coach Fred Smith said again you have two heavyweights. “They are the defending state champion,” Smith said. “We just beat the No. 2 team in the state so now we get the No. 1 team so no rest for the wicked. But I’m proud of the kids. I was frustrated early because I just wanted them to show up. I don’t mind losing to a good team like Westminster. You just tip your cap and call it what it is, but I knew we still had some fight left in us, too. When we scored five runs in the fifth I thought anything can happen now.”
Smith was right.
Of course the pressure was all on the Pirates after giving up six runs in the first-three innings on three home runs.
Junior Jimmy Obertop hit a three-run home run in the first to put the Wildcats up 3-0, and then Clayton Guzdial and Michael Kolb followed it up with back to back dingers in the third. Guzdial’s home run was a two-run shot to left while Kolb’s home run came opposite field to right.
Smith said he hadn’t given up hope when Westminster Christian Academy went up 6-0 but he also knew the Pirates were in for a dogfight.
“We were down 6-0 but if you look at the board they had four hits early and three home runs,” Smith said. “Reece Lang then came in and shut them down. I just wanted him to buy us some time for two or more innings and then when we scored five runs in the fifth; obviously the fans got it started. They willed us to win when it was 6-0 and then our kids started believing there at 3-4 runs and then at the end it was kind of meant to be, almost like we were destined to win.”
Some would say the Pirates were dead in the water after trailing 6-0. But after rallying in the district championship against Kirksville and again in the sectional game against Lutheran St. Charles, junior catcher Dylan Watson said there is just no quit in his teammates.
“Just the fight in us,” Watson, who was 2-for-4 with a single, double and three RBIs. “We just want to go all the way and win it all. That’s our goal this year: 3-2-3 (Win it all). My thoughts on the game is that our team is strong enough to come back from any deficit and we all have each others back and we were never down at any moment. We also knew that Reece would come in and do the job after Connor (Barnes) even though did a great job. But our mind set was we were down 6-0 and we can come back.”
The Pirates definitely had their chances, especially in the third with two runners on and no outs. However, after a line out to center field by Trae Williams, senior Samuel Wiser was doubled off second for the double play. Westminster pitcher Clayton Guzdial later got Barnes on a fly out to center.
Meanwhile, after another 1-2-3 inning in the fourth, Boonville finally had something go their way after walks to Williams and Reece Lang and a bloop single to center by Carson Campbell to load the bases. Ethan Waibel then doubled to left center for two runs while Barnes singles to left to cut the lead in half. Then, after getting a strikeout, Watson delivered the first of his two big hits with a single to right center to make it a one run ballgame at 6-5.
Both teams left runners on base in the sixth innings. Meanwhile, after the Pirates worked out of a jam in the top-half of the seventh with the bases loaded, Boonville started its magical run in the bottom-half of the inning after a lead off single to left by Kole Ficken and a RBI-double to center by Watson to tie the game at 6-all. Then, after intentionally walking Ben Horst to put runners at first and second with no outs, Westminster came back and got Williams on a strikeout for the first out.
The Wildcats also put senior Avery Reardon on base with a walk to set up the biggest decision of Smith’s career on whether to leave Lang in the ballgame to hit or replace him with another hitter.
Smith chose the latter while inserting sophomore Cale Fox into the lineup.
“We didn’t have a DH and Reece was coming up to bat so he pretty much emptied the tank,” Smith said. “I was like I have to get somebody up there. Prior to that I pinch ran for Ben and I knew he wouldn’t be able to go back in but I told him we were going to win it right now.”
Luckily for Smith, the Pirates did when it right there as Fox drew a bases loaded walk to bring in the winning run.
“Final Four, baby,” Smith said.
Lang wound up getting the win in relief for Boonville, improving his record to 6-0. Barnes pitched the first-three innings and gave up six runs on three hits and three walks while striking out three. Lang then came in and shut Westminster down by pitching the final-four innings and allowing just one hit and two walks. He also struck out two batters.
Zach Brasier took the loss for Westminster, who finished the season at 29-3.
Carson Campbell also had two hits on the night for Boonville with two singles while Ethan Waibel doubled and drove in two runs. Barnes also singled and drove in one run while Ficken and Williams finished the game with one single each.
For Westminster Christian Academy, Obertop, Kolb and Guzdial each homered while Brennan Orf doubled.