QUINCY — The old bully on the postseason playground threatened to derail the Quincy Notre Dame baseball team’s title quest yet again.
That was until a tag and swing knocked Beardstown to its knees.
A legendary coaching career went down with it.
The Raiders escaped danger in the first inning, tagging out the Tigers’ William Davidsmeier on a play at the plate when he tried to score on a passed ball. The tide further turned when QND shortstop Alex Connoyer belted a three-run home run to left field in the bottom of the inning.
QND never trailed thereafter, building a six-run lead before stamping out a seventh-inning rally to secure a 6-2 victory at the Ferd in the Class 2A QND Regional championship game.
“This is a big deal for us,” Connoyer said. “This has been a high-tension, tightly-contested series with them this season. So to come out on top and to play like that really feels good.”
The Raiders (31-2) advance to face Shelbyville (28-2) in Wednesday’s sectional semifinals at Pleasant Plains after bringing an end to the Hall of Fame career of Tigers skipper Robin Lewis, who announced before the season this would be his last in the dugout.
Lewis enjoyed a 30-year career in which he won 633 games, 12 regional titles, six sectional crowns, four super-sectionals and a fourth-place state trophy in 2007.
He had his share of victories against QND as well, knocking the Raiders out in the postseason a handful of times. The Tigers were also responsible for this QND team’s last loss — a 9-6 setback at Beardstown on April 14.
The Raiders have won 22 consecutive games since.
“They got me the first time,” said QND right-hander Jake Schisler, who allowed three earned runs and nine hits in that loss to the Tigers. “We’re a better team now. We play more together. … At the end of the day, we got the job done.”
It wasn’t without a little consternation.
With one out in the top of the first inning, the Tigers used a walk to Davidsmeier and a single by Micah Wink to put runners at the corners. On a wild pitch that went to the backstop on a 1-2 count, Davidsmeier broke for home. QND catcher Michael Stupavsky quickly retrieved it and flipped the ball to Schisler, who tagged out Davidsmeier at the plate.
“That’s the luxury of us knowing what our backstop does here,” QND coach Ryan Oden said. “(Lewis) is going to be aggressive, and I take my hat off to him. You want to be aggressive in that game because he’s trying to get the momentum going on his side.
“But Michael made a great play, and Jake is probably one of my most squirrelly pitchers who can get there. He did and he made a great tag.”
Two more walks loaded the bases, but Schisler got out of it by striking out Beardstown’s Alan Villegas.
“I think his energy was a little too high that first inning,” Stupavsky said of Schisler. “He got a little nervous with runners on base, but once he settled in, he was really dominant.”
Schisler walked the leadoff hitter in the second inning, then retired 14 consecutive batters and went to the seventh inning have allowed only two hits.
“His off-speed was on, and he was placing the ball well, right where I called it,” Stupavsky said.
Pitching with the lead helped him relax.
“Not just for me, but the team in general,” Schisler said. “Alex’s home run had everybody in the dugout up and just bouncing around. It was great for team morale in general.”
Ben Kasparie was hit by a pitch leading off the first and Tucker Tollerton walked. Following a strikeout by Dalton Miller, Connoyer jumped on a curveball from Davidsmeier and launched it over the left-field fence for a 3-0 lead.
“I knew he was struggling to throw strikes, so I knew I was going to get challenged a little bit,” Connoyer said. “So he got that fastball by me, and I was like, ‘OK, I’ve seen it.’ The second pitch he hung that curveball and I saw it and put a good swing on it.”
His home run trot stayed at a steady pace, even though his heart was racing.
“I was ecstatic,” Connoyer said. “I was running around first and I was scared I missed the base because I was jumping around. So I had to go back and touch it. And then coming around third and seeing everybody standing up and cheering, it was just great.”
It was a jolt to the Tigers, who had watched Davidsmeier allow just two earned runs in his previous 22 innings.
“He’s one of the best arms I’ve seen in my 12 years here,” Oden said. “For us to do that to him had to be a little deflating for them.”
The Raiders tacked on another run in the fifth on Brady Kindhart’s RBI double and two runs in the sixth when Dalton Miller launched a two-run home run to right field. All six runs against Davidsmeier were earned.
It was one of just five hits the Raiders collected as they capitalized on two walks and six hit batters.
Beardstown made it interesting in the seventh inning, chasing Schisler with one out after an error and two walks loaded the bases. Miller came on in relief, hitting a batter to force in a run and allowing an RBI sacrifice fly. He ended the game with a ground ball that led to a forceout at second base.
It was another sign of the Raiders being able to stem the tide.
“I gave the kids a quote saying, ‘Failure isn’t falling. It’s not getting back up,’” Oden said. “We’re going to have strikeouts. We’re going to miss pitches. We’re going to make errors in the field. They’re going to control the momentum. We’re going to control the momentum.
“We just have to be able to capture the momentum, hold onto it, jump out on them and shake them up a little bit.”
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