By Mike Monahan

MASCOUTAH – Charleston’s baseball team jumped out to a 4-0 lead over Mascoutah on Wednesday evening.

But the second inning was even better when the Trojans scored seven runs for an 11-1 lead that it never came close to relinquishing in a victory over top-seeded Mascoutah in the Class 3A Sectional semifinal, 12-5. 

It is the first time since 2008 that the Trojans have reached the Sweet 16. That team went 26-12 and lost to Highland 4-1 in the sectional title game. 

Charleston (25-9) plays host to Troy Triad (26-10) at 4:30 p.m. on Friday with the winner advancing to the Millikin Super Sectional against the winner between Chatham Glenwood and Springfield at 7 p.m. Monday.  

Charleston coach hit Mascoutah starter Ryan Bibb hard early. The right-hander entered the game having allowed only 11 hits in 32 2/3 innings for a 1.71 earned run average. But he allowed five in a row to start the game. Bibb had also struck out nearly two batters per inning.

“We have been hitting the ball much better lately,” said Charleston coach Derrick Landrus. “And their pitcher had pretty eye-popping stats from what we saw.”

The Trojans also took advantage of Mascoutah’s five errors in the opening two innings.

“We got enough solid hits to get things started and then we took advantage of their mistakes,” Landrus said, “and we had some seeing-eye singles. We did plenty ourselves to get the 11 runs in the first two innings and we took advantage of them giving us a few more. When you put the ball in play, good things happen in baseball. They were shocked, and I don’t really think they knew what hit them.”

Charleston started the game with five consecutive singles by Cory Spour, Petyon Daugherty, Kendall Pankey, Ty Coartney and Dane Herrington to score twice. With two outs, Cade Landrus reached on an infield single that resulted in an error as well to score two more runs and make it 4-0.

Charleston used four pitchers to hold the Indians, who had outscored their opponents 27-1 in the two regional games, to five hits. Mascoutah had won five straight games by a total of 54-7 – an average of 11-1. 

“The atmosphere on our team is just crazy right now,” said Coartney. “Everybody is just cheering each other on. This is something else. It was a long drive here (two hours) and we had a whole bunch of fans.”

The Indians (19-10) had not allowed more than seven runs in one game and the seven-run loss Wednesday was their worst of the season. 

The Trojans broke the game open in the second when they sent 11 batters to the plate and scored seven runs on three hits. The Indians helped out with four errors. Cade Landrus reached on an infield single and Mascoutah committed an error allowing the last three runs of the inning to score. 

“I feel like whenever we start hitting the ball everyone does,” said Cade Landrus. “Even if we at least get a bat on it, there is a chance we are going to break something open. Having good at-bats, making the pitchers throw pitches – that is what we have been doing here lately and relying on our defense. “

Mascoutah scored a run in the first and added three more in the second when the first six batters all reached. With the bases loaded, Spour retired three in a row to end the inning on a pop up to short, a strikeout and and a grounder to first.

“It is a super big field (390 feet to center) and our outfield has been amazing,” said Spour. “Our whole defense has been amazing. We had a big lead. My whole goal as a pitcher was to spot and hit corners and allow our defense (to make plays), and it went to our advantage. I just relied on our defense.”

Spour, now 3-0, threw the most innings of any of the five CHS pitchers by going 2 2/3 innings and allowing just one hit with two strikeouts and no walks. 

“The goal was to save as many pitchers and so we had some kids eager to go and so we got Cade (Landrus) in and he just killed it,” Spour said. “Our defense played amazing today.”

As for the 11-1 start: “Our whole dugout was going crazy every hit and every error,” Spour said. “We just had them rattled the first two innings. Just coming out and jumping on them early on their home field was crazy big.”

After the first two innings that took 75 minutes, each team scored only once more.

Spour retired eight straight before allowing a single to Brayden Knoebel.

Cade Landrus made his first appearance in several weeks, going 1 2/3 inning innings before Kyler Sweeney secured the win over the final 1 2/3 innings.

“Every pitcher we have had this year has been awesome,” said coach Landrus. “We have 14-15 guys. I had in my mind any big game I am not going to let someone stay out there. If they don’t have it that day and don’t look as good as I think, then we have someone else. Those guys will come back for us. James Hess (starter) will be fine if we need him Friday. He wasn’t great to start (to start the game) so we go to the next guy. Corey really settled in and then Cade started off really well – and Sweeney pitched well also. It is kind of what we have done all year. We have enough guys that we don’t have to leave someone out there very long, if we don’t want to.”

In the fifth inning, Coartney threw a strike to first baseman Aiden Archibald from right field to turn a likely single into an unusual 9-3 ground out.

“I read it off the bat. I knew it was going to be shallow and I knew I couldn’t catch it,” said Coartney. “I knew I was going to get a one-hopper and I knew it was going to be a close call. I just threw it as hard as I could to first to try and get him, and I ended up getting him.”

Cade Landrus went 3-for-4 with three RBIs and all but one player had either a hit or scored a run. Pankey went 2-for-3 with a sacrifice and an RBI, Coartney went 3-for-4 with two RBIs and Herrington went 2-for-4 with two RBIs

“I am used to it by now,” said Cade Landrus of being coached by his dad. “He has been my coach since I was five. I feel like everyone has a good relationship with him. I have never had anyone else coach me when I have played baseball.”

The Trojans are 19-4 in home games this season.

Good luck Tiger mascot

The Trojans have a new mascot for the team in a large white tiger won by coach Landrus at Six Flags years ago.  “He was won at a travel tournament at six flags way back when,” said coach Landrus. “It was won by me hitting 3-pointers. I was a 3-pointer or two away from winning a big 70 inch TV. We put him in the dugout all weekend and we played really, really well (in the travel tournament). I was going to throw him away a few times, but he came out of retirement today. I told them (the players) if they needed good luck to touch the top of his head. I don’t know if they did, but he will be back Friday.” 

Next opponent: Troy Triad 

So here’s how Triad has matched up with common opponents.

Triad beat Mattoon 5-4 in the regional championship as well as Mount Vernon 10-4 on Wednesday.

Triad lost to Mascoutah 4-1 and beat Olney 9-6.

Charleston has beaten Highland 7-2 and Olney 13-2.

The Knights are coached by Jesse Bugger, who is in his 13th season. He guided Triad to a fourth place finish in both 2012 and 2018. 

Triad has four players hitting at or above .320: John Rea (.395), Drew Watts (.348), Jake Radosevich (.347) and Brady Twyman (.320). Rea has a team-high six home runs and 36 RBIs. Like Charleston, they have a lot of pitchers with 12. 

Final player thoughts

“We were not thinking of going this far,” said Cade Landrus. “We just wanted to win a regional and once we did that we wanted to win this game and now we get to go back home and play there. We have just got to keep hitting and playing defense like we do.”

“I love it that we are home because that is probably where we play our best,” said Coartney. “Our atmosphere and fans are great. It will probably be packed Friday and I am glad we are able to have it at our own place.”