PREP BASEBALL: Cornjerkers drop regional opener to Warriors

May 14—HOOPESTON — Mental fortitude is a requirement for successful postseason runs.

Teams need to be able play with confidence whether they are leading or trailing in a contest.

Monday's regional baseball quarterfinal contest between the Watseka Warriors and the Hoopeston Area Cornjerkers was the very definition of mental fortitude.

Watseka, winners of six out of nine heading into the postseason, responded when it was needed the most to beat Hoopeston Area 6-3 and advance to the regional semifinals on Thursday against Bismarck-Henning/Rossville-Alvin.

"We played one of our best baseball games of the year," Watseka coach Steven Rigsby said. "We are just playing well down the stretch."

And a big reason for the Warriors (11-15) success on Monday can be attributed to senior right-hander Myles Lynch, who struck out nine in 6.2 innings — allowing just 3 unearned runs.

"Myles threw an unbelievable game. All credit goes to him and what we did at the plate," Rigsby said. "We struggled on the mound in the first half of the year when we were playing the top end of our conference, which is really good. We have started to get a little confidence later in the year, playing a little different competition and it's been good for our mental attitude.

"And honestly, our pitchers are just throwing better. They are keeping us in a lot of baseball games."

But the turning point in Monday's game came after Hoopeston Area (16-10) scored twice in the third inning to take a 2-1 lead. Sophomore catcher Cole Miller capped the inning with a run-scoring single to left.

But the Cornjerkers didn't enjoy that lead for long.

The Warriors answered with four unearned runs in the fourth inning with Brayden Ketchum driving home a pair of a single to right.

"We had a tough error in the bottom of the third, gave up 2 runs to go down 2-1," Rigsby said. "Earlier this season, that would have been tough for us to overcome. But, we came back and scored four to take the lead.

"That's how you are supposed to respond That's what good teams are supposed to do."

Hoopeston Area pitcher Ethan Steiner had a pair of walks in the frame, but it was a pair of errors that aided the Watseka 4-run inning.

"You have to come out and make plays," Hoopeston Area coach Brayden Bouse said. "If you don't make plays for your pitcher when he makes pitches — bad things happen.

"That's been the case all year in the games that we have lost. Errors kill."

While the fielding miscues were difficult to overcome, Bouse was also very disappointed in his team's lack of an offensive response.

The Cornjerkers managed just three singles against Lynch and they left nine runners on base, including leaving the bases loaded in the seventh inning.

"Myles threw a great game, but coming into this game, we had a scouting report and people have been able to put numbers up on him all year," Bouse said. "We haven't been a stagnant offense very much this year, so this was a shock.

"It just wasn't our night."

At Hoopeston IHSA Class 2A regional quarterfinal Watseka 6, Hoopeston Area 3

Watseka 100 401 0 — 6 6 2

Hoopeston Area 002 000 1 — 3 3 5

WP —Myles Lynch. LP — Ethan Steiner. Save — Frankie Shervino. Two or more hits — Watseka: Brayden Ketchum 2, Lathan Westerfield. Hoopeston: Wyatt Eisenmann 2. 2B — Watseka: Ketchum. RBIs — Watseka: Ketchum 2, Austin Morris 2, Lynch 1. Hoopeston: Cole Miller, Zach Huchel.

Records — Watseka 11-15 overall. Hoopeston Area 16-10 overall.