O’FALLON — Tuesday’s Class 3 state third-place game at T.R. Hughes Ballpark couldn’t have started much better for Warsaw, but it couldn’t have ended much worse either as the Wildcats lost 7-2 to Lutheran St. Charles.
Bailey Jelinek struck out the side in the first inning and stranded a Lutheran runner at third in the second with two strikeouts to end the top half of the inning.
Jelinek went 5 2-3 innings, striking out seven and allowing three runs.
“He’s pitched well for us all year,” said Warsaw coach John Eierman. “He had a good fastball working, a good curveball working and then he dropped down and he was for the most part throwing strikes. He pitched a heck of a game, gutsy performance.”
Warsaw also got on the scoreboard first with a run in the bottom of the first inning. Jeremy Eieman walked with one out, advanced to second on a passed ball and later scored when Joey Cooner snuck a ground ball passed the outstretched glove of the first baseman into right field to score Eierman.
But the Cougars gained control in the third inning by scoring three runs and holding a 3-1 lead until the seventh.
Jelinek got two of the first three batters out in the third inning, only allowing a walk to Jacob Andrews. The Cougars’ bats erupted after that.
After Andrews took second on a wild pitch, John Hurayt III hit a grounder past a diving Eierman at shortstop. The hit drove in Andrews to tie the game at 1-1.
Hurayt III advanced to second on the throw, but him getting into scoring position didn’t come into play because Winston Jefferson blasted a towering two-run home run over the scoreboard in right field.
“It was a momentum changer and unfortunately we didn’t get one of those,” coach Eierman said.
That 3-1 lead stood until the sixth when Warsaw cut it to 3-2. Eierman led off the inning by driving the ball to deep left field and making it to third after the left fielder slipped trying to run and attempt to catch it.
Jelinek got the crowd going as he approached the plate, but he pooped out. Cooner took advantage of Eierman’s leadoff hit and hit a sacrifice fly to right to make it 3-2.
The Wildcats seemed to have some life, but the Cougars quickly extinguished the fire by scoring four in the top of the seventh and retiring the Wildcats in order to end the game.
The Warsaw bats struggled in the final four, only plating three runs between the two games.
“For some reason these last two games the bats weren’t really there,” coach Eierman said. “But all I’m after is effort and have kids go out there and do their best.”
Even though the result didn’t go in favor of Warsaw, this team made school history by becoming the first team to reach the final four.
Warsaw’s last time making the state postseason was in 1992.
“It means a lot,” coach Eierman said. “I told the boys that as much as this hurts there’s a lot of teams that would give anything to be here, to experience this and do what we just did and make a run through districts and sectionals and the quarterfinals. It’s been a phenomenal year. I’m really proud of the guys. It was a really memorable year for us.”