Van Buren, Ellington roll into final
ALTON, Mo. -- It was a 1980s rock party between innings.
After each frame, the Alton sound system blasted one classic rock song after another. Journey, Bon Jovi, all the karaoke favorites.
The Van Buren bench heartily sang along with Steve Perry and the like, and often continued their carefree hollering well after the music went quiet and play resumed.
The Naylor bench, well, the Naylor bench had less to sing about.
The Bulldogs had 13 at-bats in the first inning for eight runs and stayed loose as they won 13-2 in five innings in the MSHSAA Class 2 District 2 semifinals.
Van Buren will face Ellington in the championship at 4 p.m. Wednesday in Alton. The Whippets beat Neelyville 10-2 in the other semifinal.
"We've not ever done anything, so we have no pressure," Van Buren coach Jacob Black said. "We're just here to have fun, enjoy the game of baseball, and get to enjoy each other."
Spencer Burnham had a pair of doubles and two runs in the first inning and finished 3 for 4. Todd Wilcoxon also had two doubles as Van Buren (15-2) finished with 13 hits.
"We try to stay off-speed a lot, all day long and sneak a few fastballs in. They sat on those fastballs and they drove it whenever they saw it," said Naylor coach Jim Carrier, whose team finished one game below its preseason goal of a .500 record.
Wilcoxon also started on the mound for the Bulldogs and gave up two runs off three hits in the top of the first inning.
Van Buren's defense flashed early reliability with an inning-ending 6-4-3 double play, and Wilcoxon allowed one more baserunner after that.
"These guys want it, and you can tell. They were out early this morning in the cage. I went out there early, they were there," Black said. "They don't hardly surprise me anymore, they're a resilient bunch."
Over three innings, he finished with four hits, no walks and four strikeouts. Burnham was beyond perfect over the final two innings.
He struck out all six batters he faced and needed 30 pitches to do it.
"They've been like that every year since they were freshmen and sophomores. Our defense, we just can't get lazy," Black said.
The Bulldogs chased Naylor pitcher Jacob Cagle out of the game in the first inning.
"I felt like we had the right guy on the mound, just a little bit different feel than what he is used to, a little bit steeper mound. He couldn't get his footing real well," Carrier said. "I'm proud of these guys for the way they played and their attitudes all season long. It just wasn't in the cards for us today."
Jordan Cook relieved him and gave up two earned runs the rest of the game off nine hits and a walk for Naylor (6-7), but Van Buren still scored in every inning.
Ellington 10, Neelyville 2
Typically, things like leaving the scorebook at home on the day of the district semifinals are bad omens.
Ellington coach Jake Hime did just that after a morning that included finished official reviews. The team made do, drawing up a makeshift scorebook on an 8-by-11 sheet of paper, and scored six runs in the sixth inning to pull away in the MSHSAA Class 2 District 2 semifinals.
"When stuff like that happens you just have to role with it. You can't sweat the small stuff on a day like today," Hime said.
The Whippets (14-9) were ahead 4-2 after five innings. Batting second, Hime huddled his team and called on them to put together a big inning.
The Whippets loaded the bases with nobody out, but things looked dicey after a strikeout and a sacrifice fly to right.
Then Tanner Roderman got the first of four straight two-out hits, including a double from Jacob Richards.
"I was as pumped as the kids were. I felt like we really needed something to stay on top of it," Hime said. "They were just staying on the ball and not trying to do too much."
Prior to the sixth, Cameron Brewer and Roderman each had solo home runs for the Whippets.
After starting the season 1-10, the Tigers (10-16) went into the semifinals with double digit wins, including a 6-5 win over district rival Naylor.
Tyler Lowe had a leadoff double and scored in the second inning. Peyton Hobbs was hit by a pitch to start the sixth and scored on Wyatt Moon's single for Neelyville's two runs.
"We improved quite a bit throughout the year," Neelyville coach Tyler Thompson said. "I couldn't be more proud of the fight there at the end. The team I first got would have gave up and quit right there. We battled until the end and that's all you can ask for as a coach."