O’FALLON — Northwest came into the Class 1 semifinals as a hot hitting team that scored 12 runs in each of the two games preceding Tuesday’s matchup against Bell City at T. R. Hughes Ballpark, but the Cubs were the team firing off hits and scoring runs in an 11-1 win in six innings over Northwest.
The loss for the Mustangs means they will play for third place at 10:30 a.m. today against either Hurley or Atlanta.
The Cubs scored one in the first, three in the second, two in the third, three in the fourth and two in the sixth.
But it wasn’t all because of good hitting. The Mustangs committed seven errors, including three in the final play of the game that allowed the final two runs to score.
Coach Justin Wiskur said he thinks nerves played a role in the team’s fielding blunders.
“None of these kids have ever been on this type of stage and haven’t dealt with this type of pressure and I think it got to us a little bit,” he said.
Bell City’s sixth run of the game came in the third inning when numerous infielders ran toward the mound to catch a pop up, but the ball dropped in the middle of the circle of players just behind the mound.
“It looked like we had a small village submerge on and watch it drop,” Wiskur said.
Northwest’s lone run came when Truman Leicher tripled to deep right field with one out in the fourth and Tanner Killion drove him in with a single.
The Mustangs had five other hits in the game, but couldn’t deliver any more RBI hits.
Bell City entered the game with a 23-3 record, compared to a 13-14 record for Northwest. Hurley and Atlanta entered the semifinals with a 22-4 record and a 13-3 record, respectively.
Of course, that made Northwest the outlier and underdog of the final four.
“I actually heard one of the coaches here, I won’t give the school’s name, but I listened to them on a broadcast in Springfield and when the host asked him about us coming in with a 13-14 record he laughed about it and said if they can get past the team that they’re playing we shouldn’t have any problems with the top half of that bracket,” Wiskur said. “So I think there is a little bit of overlooking on us.”
Northwest was a hot team coming in, despite its record, but Tuesday was a cool down for the Mustangs.
Wiskur said he’d gather the team Tuesday night and hope the tournament’s underdog would still have the determination to pull off an upset to close out the season.
“It’s still something to play for,” he said. “We still have a chance that no other team in our school’s history has done by winning the third place game. … If we can bounce back and play a little bit of defense we can still end this tournament with something positive.”