By Josh Hall
AURORA, Mo. – There wasn’t a dog pile or an elaborate celebration on Tuesday after the Aurora baseball team claimed a 5-0 win against Aurora in a Class 4 sectional game.
Sure, the Houn’ Dawgs were excited to advance to the quarterfinal round. But they know there is still work to be done.
“We’re not finished yet,” Matthew Miller said.
Aurora, the No. 2 team in the Missouri High School Baseball Coaches Association rankings, will take on Helias, ranked seventh, at 4 p.m. Thursday in a quarterfinal matchup in Jefferson City. The Crusaders improved to 18-6 on the year after claiming a 10-0 win against Bolivar in sectional play Tuesday.
After taking third at state last year, Aurora (25-3) is ready to get back to business.
“We’ve got to enjoy it tonight, and then tomorrow is a whole new day,” senior pitcher Zac Shoemaker said after Aurora’s victory against the Cubs, ranked third in Class 4. “We’ve got a whole new game to prepare for – different team, different place.”
That’s the mentality the Houn’ Dawgs have had all season.
Inside Aurora’s dugout hangs an assortment of signs that prove it.
“One pitch at a time.”
“Think how good it is going to feel.”
“Attitude is a decision.”
“Confidence is a choice.”
“So what, next pitch!”
The final sign reads, “W.I.N. – What’s important now.”
Aurora knows what’s important now. And it’s not a dog pile.
“I use the phrase, ‘it’s a marathon, not a sprint,’ all the time,” Aurora coach James Hoffman said. “We don’t want them to look too far ahead – focus on one pitch and just remember the little things. … We’re not satisfied. This is business.”
Just like he’s done all season, Shoemaker took care of business on the mound.
The left-hander, bound for Missouri State, allowed four hits and struck out 13 to earn the complete-game victory. Shoemaker improved to 12-0 on the year while keeping is earned run average under one.
“He’s been like that all year,” Hoffman said. “He’s been dominant. He gets up there and knows exactly what he’s doing.”
Shoemaker threw 95 pitches, 60 for strikes. He issued one walk, but threw 21 of 26 first-pitch strikes. Shoemaker’s velocity, along with his off-speed pitches, made it tough on Monett hitters.
“Zac does a great job, pounds the zone with an assortment of pitches – fastball, curveball, changeup,” Monett coach Michael Calhoun said. “He has very good location. He commands the bottom half of the zone very well.”
Aurora’s offense did its part supporting its ace.
Gage Singer led off the top of the second with a triple to right field and Preston Naylor followed with an RBI double. Shoemaker executed a sacrifice bunt to advance Naylor to third and Ryan Cline drove him in with a single to left to give the Houn’ Dawgs a 2-0 lead.
“The offense was resilient. We hit a lot of balls hard all day long,” Hoffman said. “We had a lot of good at-bats today.”
Aurora had another one in the top of the fifth when Kaleb Baker hit a home run to left-center with two outs to give the Hown’ Dawgs a 3-0 lead.
Aurora broke the game open in the seventh when Miller hit a two-run home run with two outs to give the Houn’ Dawgs a five-run cushion.
Shoemaker closed the door on the Cubs (21-5) in the bottom of the frame.
“They had some big hits, and that’s the way it goes,” Calhoun said. “They’re a very good team.
“I was talking to coach Hoffman, and I was well aware after this game, a really good team was going to go home. I think we’re two of the better teams around in our Class. They played better than us today, and I wish them all the best and hopefully they go all the way.”
The Houn’ Dawgs hope so, too.
“We want to get back to O’Fallon again,” Baker said. “We’re ready for Thursday.”
AURORA 5, MONETT 0
Aurora: 0 2 0 0 1 0 2 – 5
Monett: 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 – 0
Aurora 7, Monett 4
Aurora 0, Monett 3
Wyatt Sparks 1-4, run; Kaleb Baker 1-3, run, RBI; Matthew Miller 1-3 (HR), 2 RBI, BB; Gage Singer 2-4 (2B, 3B), run; Preston Naylor 1-3 (HR, 2B), RBI; Ryan Cline 1-3, RBI.
Zac Shoemaker (W) 7 IP, 4 hits, no runs, 13 strikeouts, 1 walk
Ian Meyer 1-2, BB; Alex Rivera 1-3; Brady Wright 2-3.
Jonathan Hawkins (L) 4 2/3 IP, 6 hits, 3 runs, 3 strikeouts, 1 walk
Ian Meyer 2 1/3 IP 1 hit, 2 runs (no earned), 3 strikeouts, no walks