Charleston coach Derrick Landrus was not having any part of a discussion that his team expected to easily defeat a Jersey team that brought a 13-16 record into Friday’s IHSA Class 3A Regional semifinal game.
He told his players before the game: “Don’t ever expect that in a baseball game. You’re playing a wild card game in the postseason. They’re good enough at 13 wins to beat us on any given day. “
But the longtime Charleston coach will lean into the fact his team has started to hit better toward the end of the season. The stats bare that out. Charleston averaged 9.8 runs across its final six games – 2.5 runs more than the season average and even more than that compared to the early weeks of the season.
That hitting carried over Friday night when Charleston crushed Jersey pitching to score seven runs in the second inning en route to a 14-4 victory in the first round of IHSA regional playoffs.
“Obviously, that was their best pitcher out there,” Landrus said, “and we hit him hard.”
The Trojans (23-9) will next play host to Highland, an 8-7 winner over Bethalto Civic Memorial, in Monday’s Region D championship game. Highland (22-13) scored two runs in the bottom of the seventh to advance.
Dane Herrington’s first high school homer, a three-run shot over the centerfield fence in the first inning, put Charleston ahead 3-1.
Charleston used four singles, a double, two walks, a sacrifice fly and two Jersey errors to score seven runs the next inning, making it 10-1. Cory Spour’s double drove in two runs while Luke Landrus capped the rally with a single to score Ty Coartney.
“I think we relax a little more now,” Herrington said. “Early in the season, we were nervous a little bit. We hadn’t played in a while so I think we just settled in and we’re hitting the ball really well.”
Spour, Kendall Pankey and Peyton Daugherty collected two hits apiece and seven players had at least one.
“No doubt, we have hit the ball better the last two or three weeks,” Landrus said. “I think I know why. Guys hadn’t played for two years. Guys came out of football. The weather’s cold. Guys are banged up. If we played for another month, some of our offensive numbers would double.”
Charleston also once again relied on a deep rotation, using four pitchers who allowed seven hits, two walks and three earned runs. The team has used as many as 17 pitchers during the season.
Starter Connor Woodley allowed one unearned run and three hits through two innings, Spour gave up three runs and two hits the next two innings, Kyler Sweeney pitched a scoreless fifth and James Hess pitched a hitless sixth to secure the win.
“I’ve got faith in putting a lot of them out there,” Landrus said.