CHARLESTON — For the second time in five weeks, the Paris Tigers and the Mattoon Green Wave squared off on the baseball field.
The stakes were much higher Thursday (May 24) as the two teams matched up in the Charleston Class 3A regional for the right to face Effingham today for the title. While the end result was a 2-1 loss for the Tigers, the quality of play was markedly better.
Head Coach Creighton Tarr praised the effort of his team not just in this game, but also throughout the last four years.
“This was a great high school baseball game,” said Tarr. “It hurts being on the wrong end of the final score, but that happens.”
Tarr put the weight of the first game of the second season squarely on the shoulders of sophomore hurler Brock Minor, and he held a Mattoon squad that averaged eight runs a game throughout the season to just two runs.
“Brock threw a great game,” Tarr said. “Our defense was as solid as it has been all year. We just struggled to produce offensively.”
Tarr tipped his hat to the left-handed throwing Spitz for Mattoon.
“A lot of our struggle offensively was due to the effectiveness of the Mattoon lefty,” he said.
The first 11 batters for Paris were set down in order. Mattoon scored in its half of the third inning on a solo home run from Brock Moncel.
The Tigers threatened in the top of the fourth inning as TJ Potter and Reese Sutton each singled with two outs, but a fielder’s choice ended the threat with Paris trailing 1-0.
Paris was once again in a prime position to tie things up in the fifth inning as Brody Spencer smacked a two-out double over the head of the Green Wave left fielder. However, he was stranded as Spitz struck out the next batter to end the threat.
Austin Littleton led off the sixth inning with a single up the middle. Potter singled for the second time to put two on with just one out. Minor helped with a single to left to bring Littleton home with the tying run.
In what proved to be the most important at-bat of the game, Mattoon catcher Garrett Branson and Minor went to battle.
Branson is the leading hitter for the Green Wave and was held in check throughout his first three plate appearances. On the eighth pitch of the at-bat, Branson lifted the ball to centerfield, beyond the reach of Raven Thompson and just beyond the 340-foot sign for a solo homerun. The shot gave Mattoon a 2-1 lead heading to the seventh.
Freshman pinch-hitter Jude Sullivan led off the top of the last inning with a single to left field. Spencer laid down a sacrifice bunt to put a runner at second with one out. Littleton walked to put the go-ahead run on with two outs, and Mattoon went to their bullpen to get the final out.
The loss was an emotional one for Tarr and he praised his 10 seniors’ careers.
“It really hurts losing, but I’m proud of these guys,” he said. “This group of seniors is very special to me, and to this baseball program. They have had a remarkable run, and I can’t thank them enough for what they have put into this program.”
Potter led the Tigers in hitting with a pair of singles. Spencer had a double. Littleton, Sutton, Minor and Sullivan had a single each. Minor drove in the only run of the game for Paris with his hit in the sixth.
Minor went the distance for the Tigers allowing a pair of solo home runs, and five singles to the Green Wave. He didn’t walk a batter and struck out two.
The Tigers finish with a 28-3 record, with two of those losses coming to Mattoon. They also swept the Little Illini Conference for the second straight season with a 9-0 record.
Their only other loss came to Teutopolis who is playing for a sectional championship in Class 2A.
Paris 10, South Vermillion 2
CLINTON, Ind. – In a battle of two teams with the best record in the Wabash Valley, the Paris Tigers defeated the South Vermillion Wildcats by the score of 10-2.
Paris finished the regular season with a 28-2 record. The loss drops South Vermillion to 23-2 on the year.
The Tigers got on the scoreboard in the second inning, as they pushed four runs across to grab a 4-0 lead. Reese Sutton led off with a single, Caleb Gates walked and Austin O’Neal reached on an error to load the bases with just one out.
Raven Thompson cleared the bases with a doubled to deep left-center field. He came in to score on a single from Austin Littleton.
In the next inning, TJ Potter led off with a walk, Brock Minor singled him to third and Gates doubled to right to make it 5-0. O’Neal smacked a sacrifice fly to left field that was deep enough to score Minor with the sixth run of the game.
Littleton got his second hit of the game in the fourth and scored when Zach Burger crushed the fourth pitch he saw over the centerfield fence for a two-run homer. Sutton walked and came in to score on a double by Minor to make it 9-0.
In the fifth inning, O’Neal’s double was followed by a single from Thompson to put runners at the corners with nobody out. Matt Stetler hit a fly ball to right that was caught, and O’Neal was gunned down at the plate for the second out. Littleton came through with a two-out double to score Thompson making it 10-1 Paris.
Littleton was the top hitter of the day for the Tigers with a pair of doubles, a single and two RBI’s on the day. Thompson had a single, double, and three RBIs as well. Burger drove in two with his blast to center in the fourth inning. Gates and O’Neal each had a double and an RBI and Sutton and Minor added a single apiece.
Thompson went three strong innings to earn his eighth win of the season. He did not allow a run on three hits. He walked two and struck out five.
Dylan Creech had one inning on the mound, allowing one run on three hits. Minor pitched the fifth inning and gave up one hit, and he struck out one.
Jude Sullivan gave up one run on a pair of hits. He walked two and struck out two. O’Neal pitched a perfect seventh inning to round out the day.