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By Anthony Jones
Baserunners were few and far between when Triad and Highland faced off for the Jersey Regional title on May 27.
The game’s first base runner came in the bottom of the second, when Triad’s Nic Funk reached via an error. Highland’s Chase Knebel ended the frame with the shutout intact after recording three consecutive outs.
Highland’s lone hit of the game came in the form of a leadoff double in the top of the third. Triad ace Austin Brown struck out three of the next four batters, with the lone exception being an intentional walk.
The game’s next batter to reach base came in the bottom of the fifth, as Carter Vandever produced the lone Triad hit of the day with a leadoff single. After his pinch runner was thrown out stealing second, Knebel ended the inning with a pair of groundouts.
Brown and Knebel continued the battle of the arms into extra innings as their shutouts lasted through seven innings.
The tide finally turned in the bottom of the eighth as Vandever was hit by pitch and his replacement runner, Gabe Deaver, stole second. A subsequent walk from Wyatt Bugger and a hit by pitch to McGrady Noyes loaded the bases.
Wyatt Suter headed to the plate next and drove a sacrifice fly to left field that scored Deaver for a 1-0 walk off victory.
Brown finished the complete game shutout with one hit, three walks and 13 strikeouts for the Knights.
The right-handed ace appreciated the opportunity to avenge one of his few losses this season, “This one’s pretty big for me because they were my only loss this season other than Edwardsville. That feels pretty good to me.”
Triad opened postseason play earlier in the week against the Taylorville Tornadoes. The Knights won that May 24 meeting 10-0.
Brady Coon took on pitching duties in that victory, allowing just three baserunners in a complete game shutout.
His first run support came in the bottom of the third, as a bases-loaded walk from Vandever drove Coon in. A subsequent sacrifice fly from Wyatt Bugger extended the lead to 2-0.
Providing the Knights’ first hit of the game, Noyes continued the rally with a bases-clearing double. Wyatt Suter drove in another runner with a line drive. Passed balls later in the frame moved Triad ahead 7-0.
RBI hits from TJ Suter and Vandever in the bottom of the fifth activated mercy rules for the 10-0 win.
Triad’s next contest will be a May 31 Centralia Sectional semi-final matchup with Effingham. The Knights and Flaming Hearts are set to have first pitch at 6:30.
The two teams met earlier this year, with Triad winning 4-0 at home on Mar. 25. Mizzou pitching commit Josh McDevitt was on the mound for Effingham in that meeting and is expected to start in the rematch.
Coach Jesse Bugger spoke on facing the talented ace, “Everybody’s going to be good from here on out. When you get to this stage of it, most teams are going to have a guy or at least have a really good high school pitcher, so at least it’s one that we’re familiar with.”
A win against Effingham would earn the Knights a return trip to Centralia on June 3 for the sectional championship. They would play either Mascoutah or Mt. Vernon in that contest.