CARBONDALE – Heading into the bottom of the fifth inning, Mt. Vernon was nine outs away from having its season ended.
Trailing 4-1 heading into the home half of the fifth, the Rams scored four times to take a 5-4 lead. They tacked on an insurance run in the sixth inning on their way to defeating Murphysboro, 6-4, in a Class 3A high school baseball contest at the Carbondale Regional.
Mt. Vernon will face Massac County Saturday at 10 AM for the regional championship. The Patriots defeated Herrin in the second semifinal contest.
Murphysboro scored three times in the fifth inning. Mason Schingel led off with a double on a ball that was lost in the sun.
Then, back to back infield throwing errors allowed Schingel and Zane Caraway to score to give the Red Devils a 3-1 lead.
“Just about everything that could have gone wrong, went wrong there,” said Mt. Vernon head coach Tim Holloway of the top of the fifth inning. “We lost one in the sun. We’ve got some pretty good defenders there that threw the ball away. It was going south.”
Brandon Caldwell singled to right field to drive home Colin Bryant for a 4-1 lead for Murphysboro.
“We had a lot of good things happen,” said Holloway. “We’re constantly talking about, ‘so what, next pitch.’ The worse thing you can do is let it eat you up the next time. We had a few there in a row, but we’ve got to make the next play and move on to the next pitch.”
Mt. Vernon did not panic. They came back in the bottom half of the inning, took advantage of some opportunities given to them by the Red Devils and scored four times to take back the lead.
“We kept plugging away,” said Holloway. “We found a way to get it done. That’s the name of the game. I’ve been through some of these crazy postseason games and you just try to keep plugging away.”
Chandler Meyer started it off with a one-out walk. He advanced to second on a single from Cole Morgan and Brandon Rutherford was hit in the back between the numbers on his jersey which loaded the bases.
Gage Burroughs looked to seconds away from grounding into a 6-4-3 double play, but the shortstop threw the ball away on the pivot to second base.
Burroughs picked up a RBI when Meyer scored, but Morgan also followed and scored on the throwing error. Rutherford advanced to third to put runners at the corners with no outs.
After Burroughs stole second, Rutherford scored on a passed ball to tie it up. On the play, Burroughs moved to third and eventually scored on a sacrifice squeeze bunt from Quinton Kujawa to give Mt. Vernon a 5-4 lead.
“Today we found a way,” said Holloway. “You never stop competing. You can’t get down. The game’s fun of adversity. Today more than usual, but that’s our whole mentality to … keep plugging away.”
Kujawa picked up the win. He threw six innings allowing six hits, four runs (one earned), walking none and striking out 14.
“He had the slider and the curveball going with the fastball mixed in,” said Holloway. “He got a few guys to top some pitches on the changeup. Good pitches. Got the groundball. The changeup was down and threw it away and that’s frustrating. He didn’t lose his cool. He kept his head. He had four pitches going for strikes. When he’s been going like that, we haven’t given up many runs. Today we didn’t help him out early on.”
Walker Brockhouse pitched a 1-2-3 seventh inning for the save that included a strikeout.
Mt. Vernon scored first in the second inning on a sacrifice fly from Meyer for a 1-0 Rams’ lead. Murphysboro tied it in the top of the third. The lead stayed until the fifth.
Mt. Vernon (25-9) advance to Saturday morning’s regional championship. The Rams will face either Herrin or Massac County at 11 AM.