Motivated Saukees ride Allen’s bulldogged pitching into regional title game
QUINCY — The Pittsfield baseball players didn’t understand it, nor did they appreciate it.
A year ago, toting a 21-5 regular-season record, the Saukees were the No. 4 seed in their sub-sectional. This season, with a 25-4 regular-season record, they were relegated to being the No. 5 seed heading to the Class 2A Quincy Notre Dame Regional.
“That felt like a punch to the chin a little bit,” Pittsfield junior Konner Allen said.
The Saukees used that motivation, along with timely hitting and Konner Allen’s bulldogged nature on the mound, to pave the way to an 8-2 victory over fourth-seeded Warrensburg-Latham in the regional semifinals Wednesday night at Ferd Niemann Jr. Memorial Ballfield.
It sets up a rematch with top-seeded Quincy Notre Dame.
The Raiders (31-1) beat the Saukees 14-4 on April 12 in Pittsfield, although neither team threw their anticipated Saturday starter in that game. Raiders senior right-hander Jake Schisler (6-0, 1.33 ERA) likely will go up against Saukees junior right-hander Brennan Tomhave (6-1, 1.98 ERA).
“We’re excited to get another crack at them,” Pittsfield coach Jerred Heinz said. “On paper, yeah, they’re probably more talented. But this is the whole reason you play the game, to be in moments like this. Obviously, Pittsfield vs. QND is always a fun matchup.”
It’s the showdown the Saukees wanted in order to be able to prove themselves.
“There’s no one we’d rather see,” Allen said. “That’s a big rivalry for a long time.”
Getting there meant Allen, a right-hander, needed to be on top of his game. Setting down the Cardinals in order with a groundout and two strikeouts in the bottom of the first inning showed he was.
“I liked my control, and I was getting ahead of batters early,” Allen said. “My changeup has been on and off a lot this year, but it was really diving for me and getting me a lot of strikeouts.”
It’s what Heinz hoped to see.
“He had three pitches working, getting them all over for strikes,” Heinz said. “He was a bulldog out there. He set the tone early. We went 1-2-3 in the first inning, and then he came out and mowed them down. That gave us some confidence going to the top of the second.”
Hayden Gratton led off with a double, went to third on Justin Pennock’s sacrifice bunt and was there with two outs after Timmy Hull walked and Draven Puterbaugh struck out. Luke Archer, a sophomore hitting in the No. 9 hole, delivered the first big blow, hitting a two-run triple to right field.
“That got the dugout going,” Heinz said. “It blew the roof off it.”
Allen soaked up the energy.
“Those boys in the dugout, we are the loudest group,” Allen said. “I know a lot of people don’t like that, but I love our intensity. It’s the best part of our game.”
Pittsfield added two runs in the fourth on Puterbaugh’s two-run home run to left field and carried that advantage to the sixth. Warrensburg-Latham scored two unearned runs on Kristopher Lawson’s two-out double, but Allen limited the damage to that.
The Saukees scored four times in the seventh, plating two runs on an error and another on a passed ball to provide the bullpen a cushion. The Cardinals loaded the bases in the bottom of the seventh with one out, but Saukees freshman Zayn Knight got a flyout and a groundout to end the game.
“He’s another hard-nosed kid who just loves the game,” Heinz said of Knight. “Those situations don’t rattle him, where for a lot of freshmen, they would.”
Allen went six innings, allowing five hits while striking out seven and walking two, and his effort was indicative of the tenacity the Saukees show.
“They’re used to playing in tough situations and not getting rattled,” Heinz said. “This whole year, we’ve been in some tough spots and this team just keeps grinding and grinding.”
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