By Mike Monahan
DECATUR – Charleston’s historic run through the state playoffs came to an end Monday night.
The Trojans were about a play or pitch away from advancing to the state finals in the 7-5 loss to Springfield High in the Super Sectional held at Millikin University.
Springfield (29-5) rallied from a 5-3 deficit and then held off Charleston for the win in a game that lasted three hours. The Senators now play Burbank St. Laurence at 1 p.m. Thursday in the state semifinals.
Charleston finished the season 26-10, reaching the Elite Eight for the third time – joining the 1960 and 1956 teams that reached the state tournament when it was one class and involved eight teams.
Charleston also won its first sectional since 1960 and played in its first Super Sectional.
“I could not be prouder of the guys,” said Charleston coach Derrick Landrus, who just completed his 17th season and has a record of 354-193 (.647). “When you play someone as good as them, sometimes you have to play perfect or really great. We were good, we were just a play or two that we didn’t make might have been the difference. Maybe we were a little bit of an underdog, I don’t know. I know coming in we were 100 percent confident. You can’t always say that. It was a heck of a run, that is for sure. “
The loss snapped a six-game winning streak.
The game was played on a field turf, unlike the natural turf most high school teams play on for the regular season.
And it made some differences, balls skipping past outfielders more quickly and throws from the outfield bouncing in much faster than normal.
“The guys have played on all-turf sometimes in the summer and we played a fall league here,” said Landrus. “The ball gets in the gaps. It is a different game. The throws skip in there harder and you get tagged out and you miss a ball in center field and, most of the time, it goes 15 feet past the guy and it is a double.“
In the sixth with one out, Caydin Reed smacked a double over Springfield center fielder Ben Parker, who threw to the shortstop who, in turn, threw a strike from the outfield to the third baseman for the tag.
Springfield got a run in the seventh for a two-run lead when Ryne Crum hit a ball that was not touched and rolled all the way to the center field wall, allowing him to slide in safely for an inside-the-park home run.
“This was one of the slower guys running the bases and he got home,” said coach Landrus. “The only thing we didn’t do there is line up the throw to home where it needed to be. We threw towards third because: How do you fault people for hustling? My son Cade, who is the second baseman, wants to win and he is out there 420 feet away as he ran from second base and was close to picking up the ball. Ty Coartney picked the ball up and he couldn’t see our shortstop in the middle of the infield and so he threw it to Dane (Herrington) at third because those guys were in front of him. I was a little upset because we threw to the wrong base, but he could not see and that is baseball. It is just the way it goes. “
Said Springfield coach Jim Steinwart. “The inside-the-park home run was huge and the other big key was the throw from Hartl to (Ryne) Crum when Reed hit the ball to wall for a double and we got him out at third. Otherwise, Charleston would have had a guy on third and one out.”
Springfield took a 3-0 lead in the first inning, scoring all its runs with two outs. The Senators scored five runs overall with two outs.
Charleston tied the score on three hits in the second inning. With two outs, Luke Landrus walked and scored when William Applegate tripled to left-center. Cade Landrus then singled to center, scoring Applegate. Reed was hit by a pitch on a 2-2 count and Spour singled before Cade Landrus scored on an error during the play.
In the third, the Trojans scored twice to go ahead 5-3. Kendall Pankey hit a full-count pitch to center for a base hit, Coartney followed with a single on a 3-1 count and Herrington delivered an RBI single to center. An error allowed Pankey to score for a 4-3 lead. Coartney then scored on a single by Herrington.
“I told the third base umpire I wish one or two run leads felt pretty safe here,”said Landrus. “I have seen all of their stats and knew how they could hit. Whether they are the best team in the state. They are one of them, obviously. I knew we just needed a run or two more probably. I just felt it and it was close.”
In the top of the fifth, the Senators’ Joseph Crum singled to left, and Luke Flesner then doubled to the gap in right-center, which scored Crum. The third of four Charleston pitchers came in and Cory Spour got the first two outs. However, Crum walked and Jack Swaney doubled to left after Avery Pound, a courtesy runner for Crum, scored on an errant pickoff attempt at first. Pound scored on the play as well giving the Senators a 6-5 lead.
Flesner, pitched the final five innings and gave up five hits with no walks and five strikeouts. The Trojans had a runner on base, though, in every inning, but left six runners on base – one in scoring position.
Said Landrus: ”Their reliever did a nice job.”
Spour, one of seven seniors on the team, was perfect in four at-bats with a one run batted in.
“He is one of the biggest gamers Charleston High school will ever have,” said Landrus. “One of the best athletes we will ever have. He did okay until the post season came and then he was just as good as anyone in the state. I am sure. He was a pitch or two from giving us the win, probably. Absolute gamer. If I was a college coach I would be knocking on his door whether he wants to play or not.”
Both teams were coming off walk-off wins in the sectional championship as Springifled trailed Chatham Glenwood 9-7 after five and a half and won 13-12 in 10 innings, while the Trojans trailed Troy Triad 5-1 after three and came back to win 7-6 in eight innings.
“We talked to a couple of coaches that were familiar with them and just got an idea of what they are about,” Seinwart. “We knew they were really tough and scrappy and they would come at us. We knew they like to combo those pitchers. Charleston is a heck of a team. They are tough, tough guys. We brought Flesner in (1.37 earned run average in 15 ⅓ innings) and did a great job. I am proud of him and his effort.”
The Senators finished second in 1985 and 2016.
The Trojans had received an escort out of town by the Charleston Police and Fire Departments.
“What an unbelievable season,” said Landrus. “We had unbelievable pitching performances by guys 3-14. I just told them about our sweep over Salem on April 24 (8-5 and 5-3) and how three or four of the football guys, main guys sat out, and we swept a doubleheader. If we don’t sweep that doubleheader we would have been a four or five seed and playing Effingham or Mattoon against really stud pitchers in the first round of the regional. You talk about team effort; you can’t emphasize that enough. That doubleheader sweep helped get us here.”
Charleston was fourth in the Apollo Conference at 3-3, but went 16-5 starting with a second game victory over Effingham on May 8 after having started 10-5.
“Every school needed sports,” said coach Landrus. “The seniors never got to experience a lot of stuff from a year and a half missing. They didn’t realize what they missed. Will they realize that 15 years from now, I don’t know, but I will be sitting here as an old man knowing what they did and accomplished. I think they will realize it as they get older down the road what they meant to the community, the school, their teammates and me. It was a pretty special year we have had.”