By Pat Dailey (For Ozark Sports Zone.com)
HOLLISTER – Springfield Catholic’s Will Duff and Zach Cole didn’t have any problem stepping back in the batter’s box after being hit by a pitch during their first plate appearance Monday
Cole and Duff followed up being beaned by combining for three hits, two RBIs and two runs scored in the Irish’s 8-1 Class 4 District 11 semifinal win over Hollister to earn them a berth in tonight’s championship game opposite defending state champion and No. 1-ranked Aurora.
Cole and Duff scored the first two of Catholic’s four first-inning runs against Hollister righty Jackson Bekemeier. The fact Cole and Duff came around to score certainly helped them not have any inhibitions about facing Bekemeier after being beaned.
“We’re trying to do whatever we can and if that means sacrificing your body to get yourself on base, that’s what we will do,” Cole said. “With the adrenaline rush of doing something for your team, it’s all worth it. I’d wear a 110 (mph fast ball), if it means getting on first base for my team.”
“You flush that right after that at-bat and look to see what’s next,” Duff added about being hit. “He got me on a fastball, but must have hit me on a good part of my arm because I didn’t feel it.”
Catholic (23-7), which had lost to the Tigers twice in the regular season, showed a killer instinct by jumping on top 8-0.
“We’ve preached that you have to have a killer mentality in the post-season when you have a team on the ropes,” coach Courtney Spitz said. “I feel our guys came out with vengeance. We hadn’t played well against Hollister in our two losses to them. When we got a chance tonight, we put them away.”
Bekemeier hit three batters his first time through Catholic’s lineup,. All three hit batsmen scored.
Bekemeier, who was instrumental in the Tigers winning a share of the COC Small Schools title, was chased after surrendering eight runs in four innings.
“I wonder if Jackson having nine days off might have been a little bit of a factor,” Burgi said. “He wasn’t quite as sharp as normal.”.
Catholic tried to steer clear of Bekemeier’s curve ball.
“In our pre-game approach, we said we were going to sit on something straight and that’s exactly what we were able to do,” Cole said. “(Bekemeier) got us pretty good in the Strafford Wooden Bat Tournament. But we did our homework, studied up on him and knew what we were going to at bat.”
Duff aided his own cause on the mound by rapping out two hits, including a double.
“I’ve been struggling at the plate, honestly,” Duff said. “This past week, I’ve taken a basic look at hitting. Fortunately, I got some outside pitches I was able to take the opposite way.”
“Will and Zach are two of the better hitters in the state,” Spitz said. “I have the utmost confidence in Zach and Will to get on base or drive runs in.”
Hunter Puckett, Carther Bither and Justin Haake all had RBI-singles for the winners.
Duff tamed Hollister by pitching to contact. His high heat helped produce 10 popouts.
“This year that has been the case,” Duff said. “I think it’s because my fast ball is straight and is just fast enough that guys a little late and pop up every once in a while.”
“He was phenomenal,” Spitz said. “When Will is able to command all three of his pitches, I feel he’s one of the best pitches in the state. It’s a testament to his character that he really stepped up tonight.”
“He gets a little hop on his fast ball and pitches up in the zone,” Burgi said. “Our whole plan was to stay off the high fast ball. But we didn’t do a good job of it at times. We have our worst game of the year in the game that really counts.”
The contest marked the end of Burgi’s 38-year career. In addition to his stops at Carthage and Hollister, he coached in Kansas and Arkansas.
“This was the right time to go,” Burgi said. “Next spring, I’ll probably feel funny and miss it big-time. But I’m okay right now.”
Catholic moves on to meet Aurora ace Wyatt Sparks.
“I respect that guy a lot,” Cole said. “But we know what we have to do. You can’t have any doubt in your mind.”
Catholic 8, Hollister 1
Catholic 420 200 0 – 8
Hollister 000 000 1 – 1
WP – Duff. LP – Bekemeier. .