Momentum can be a big part of sports and that was the case Thursday night (May 25).
Oblong High School's baseball team appeared to have momentum early in their IHSA Class 1A Sectional game, but Louisville-North Clay quickly seized it and never let it go, sending the Panthers to an 11-1 defeat in their semifinal contest at Louisville.
The Panthers started strong, as Kacey Cheek led off with a double, moved to third on a fly out from Dawson Maus and scored on a base hit by Ryan Gill for a 1-0 OHS lead three batters into the game. Unfortunately, that would be the only offense Oblong would get. The Panthers struggled at the plate after that, while North Clay blasted three home runs to help their cause. The first game in the bottom of the first, a three-run shot that gave the Cardinals the lead for good. Two-run homers in the third and fourth innings pushed the margin to 7-1, then North Clay plated two more runs in the fifth and two in the sixth to bring the game to an end via the 10-run rule.
Oblong managed just two more base runners after the first inning and they had a stretch of 11 consecutive strikeouts in the first four innings.
"Baseball is funny sometimes," OHS head coach Ian Laughlin said. "We come out and hit the ball hard, get up 1-0 and think we have some momentum. Then they get the home run in the bottom of the first and I think we were a little shell-shocked and I don't know if we ever recovered."
Cheek led OHS at the plate with a double and a run scored, while Gill singled and drove in a run.
Dawson Maus took the loss on the mound, allowing seven runs on six hits, while walking one and striking out 10 in four innings. Gill allowed two runs and walked three in an inning of relief and Hunter Goodwin gave up two runs on two hits, walked one and struck out one in two-thirds of an inning.
"Sometimes it's not your day," Laughlin said. "But, I am still extremely proud of this team. They are one of the hardest-working teams I've been a part of and I couldn't have asked for anything more out of them. That starts with the senior group (Maus, Gill, Goodwin, Drew Reider) that has led the way in terms of how we go about our business. I can't say enough about those guys."
In Thursday's first semifinal, Effingham St. Anthony outslugged Edwards County, 20-9.
Louisville-North Clay and Effingham St. Anthony will play in the championship game Saturday at 11 a.m.
Oblong ended its season with a 19-5 record.
"We had a lot of questions coming into this year and were patchwork in some spots," Laughlin said. "It took a little while to plug the holes, but once we figured it out, those guys did a heck of a job and had a nice year. We've got some good pieces coming back, but the younger guys have some big shoes to fill. We will continue to do the things we need to do to get better and try to have the same success next year."