By Mike Monahan
CHARLESTON – Were there “Angels in the Outfield” during Monday’s Class 3A regional baseball championship at Marty Pattin Field ?
Some might have thought they were watching the Disney movie, at times, when Charleston’s outfielders made two spectacular catches to save multiple runs in a 7-2 victory over Highland.
Right fielder Ty Coartney made the first dramatic catch in the second inning when he snagged a ball near the fence, bounced off and fell to the ground afterwards, rolling on the warning track.
“I thought it wasn’t going too far, and then it just started carrying,” said Coartney. “I had to get back fast. I had the student section out behind the fence screaming that the fence was coming. I knew I could catch it so I just got up and caught it and took the hit after that. I just knew it was important for the team. We worked in practice with me diving to get the ball here or there. I knew it was huge, and I just had to get it.”
Caydin Reed made a similarly athletic catch in the sixth inning when Highland had runners on first and second with two outs. He raced back toward the center field fence, leaped up and stretched his arm as far as it could go before catching the ball about 10 feet from the fence on the warning track.
“I told our guys I don’t know if I have seen a game at any level in a big game, postseason game with a big game on the line with a defense like that,” Charleston coach Derrick Landrus said. “Especially out of high school kids. I know Ty in right and Reed in center made great catches.”
Charleston (24-9) travels to play Mascoutah (19-9), a 12-1 winner over Herrin, at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday in the sectional semifinals. The Trojans are the second-seeded team in sub-sectional B while Mascoutah is the top-ranked team in sub-sectional A. The winner advances to the sectional championship against the winner between Troy Triad-Mount Vernon on Friday.
The Trojans never trailed Monday.
Cory Spour smacked a pitch over the left-center field fence for a 1-0 lead to lead off the bottom of the first inning.
Spour later doubled in the gap in left-center with one out in the second to drive in Charleston’s third run of the game. The Trojans made it 4-0 when a run scored after Dane Herrington reached base on an error.
“I just wanted to get on base,” said Spour, who hit his first home run this season. “I was not really thinking anything. It was a fastball down the middle and you couldn’t ask for a better pitch. I just put a barrel on it and it went out. It put us one step in front of the other team. On the second at-bat, I was sort of thinking off-speed. But he got down in the count and there were runners in scoring position. I just knew I had to put a good swing on it. I just hit a gap, and it scored a run.”
Highland scored its only two runs in the third when Chad Barker walked and Trey Koisher reached on a fielder’s choice, which forced Barker out at second. Blayne Kapp then hit a two-run home run.
Charleston escaped more damage thanks again to its defense. John Walker walked and Luke Darling singled to right. On the play, Walker tried to go to third. Charleston’s throw from the outfield was off-target, headed between third and home where pitcher, Connor Woodley fired a relay throw to Herrington at third for the out.
The score remained 4-2 until the fifth when Herrington led off with a walk, Cade Landrus singled to center and Peyton Daugherty blasted the first pitch over left-center field fence to make it 7-2.
“At first, I looked at coach and I thought he was going to give me the bunt signal to get them over to second and third,” said Daugherty, who also hit his first home run this season. “But it was a fastball down the middle and he didn’t give me the bunt sign at all. So I took a hack at it on the first pitch and it felt great off the bat and left the field. It felt great. Seeing my teammates at home plate, they just put a big smile on my face when I rounded third.”
Landrus said he had considered having Daugherty bunt at first. “But he is the guy that I want driving in the runs,” he said, “and so we went with the green light there and he squared up and it was another no-doubter.”
The game got a little tighter in the sixth before Reed’s big catch.
“I thought it was going to be a home run,” said Reed, a junior. “So, I just ran to it and jumped up and caught it. I landed about half on the warning track. I have been waiting for that one all year. It was a big play at the right time.”
Kyler Sweeney, who pitched the final 2 1/3 innings, struck out the first batter in the seventh and, after walking Tyler Griesbaum on a full-count pitch, got the next two batters to fly out to Coartney.
Woodley allowed only two hits through the opening innings to earn his sixth win.
“To give up two runs in seven innings against a team like that shows the team that we are,” Spour said.
Charleston outhit Highland 6-3 in winning the school’s 11th regional title.
“We made all of the other plays, too,” said Landrus. “They tried to score on a ground ball up the middle and we threw him out at home and then got a guy at third when the pitcher backed up the throw. We try and play the game the right way. (To) play aggressively. They play a lot like us. We stepped up and made the plays today. I could not be happier for our seniors with what they have been through. They are a special group to me as I have coached them since they were five or six years old. I have coached them in hundreds and hundreds of games with them, and to see them on their home field is pretty special.”