By Anthony Jones
Triad and Effingham baseball both made a trip to Centralia last week for their May 31 sectional semi-final round.
Their meeting was their second of the season, with the Knights having knocked off the Flaming Hearts 4-0 on Mar. 25. Entering their second meeting, Effingham stood at 19-15 overall compared to Triad’s 26-11 mark.
With Mizzou commit Josh McDevitt on the mound, Triad only sent three batters to the plate in the top of the first.
Effingham’s momentum fully swung into the bottom of the first, with their first five batters reaching safely for a 2-0 lead. This led to Triad turning to Nic Funk in relief of Brady Coon.
Funk struck out two of his first four batters, but a walk and single pushed the deficit to 5-0. A subsequent intentional walk and an error pushed the Flaming Hearts ahead 7-0 by the end of the frame.
“Every once in a while, it’s just not going to be your night for whatever reason. Baseball is a strange game that way. We showed a little weakness, they jumped on it and it took the air out of the night,” Triad Coach Jesse Bugger said of his team’s poor start.
Carter Vandever became the first Knight baserunner in the top of the second via a one-out single, but he was quickly wiped out with a double play.
Effingham added to their lead again in the second after piecing together a double, sacrifice fly and a wild pitch. This grew their advantage to 8-0.
The bottom of the third saw Drew Winslow take to the mound for Triad, a post he would remain at for the remainder of the contest. In his first frame, the sophomore arm retired three batters in order.
Effingham brought in the game’s next run with a bases loaded, one-out single in the bottom of the fourth. Winslow fanned the next two batters to stay within 9-0.
In the top of the fifth, Triad plated the game’s remaining scores. Their only scoring rally started with a Vandever walk and a McGrady Noyes walk with just one out. Wyatt Suter plated their first run on a grounder the shortstop failed to field.
Hayden Bugger drove in another run on a sacrifice fly to pull within 9-2. This score proved to be final.
With the loss, Triad finishes the season 26-12 overall. The Knights also picked up their third consecutive regional titles and Mississippi Valley Conference championships over their 2023 campaign.
Coach Bugger spoke of the senior class that helped provide much of that success, “They got a lot out of their ability. We’re very appreciative of how hard they work. We ask for a ton of time, so anytime that they can stick it out and make it all the way through and contribute and be winners and be good kids and graduate, we’re happy.”
After knocking off Triad, Effingham defeated Mt. Vernon 6-3 in their subsequent sectional final. The Flaming Hearts advanced to the June 5 super-sectional round against Champaign Central with that win.