John Curtis Daily Union Sports Editor
Shelbyville Daily Union
---- — It took a little extra effort, but the Shelbyville Rams (24-3) had it as they advanced to the Teutopolis Sectional title game with a win over Harrisburg in eight innings, 3-2.
The Rams have rolled through the season, claiming an undisputed Okaw Valley Conference championship, then cruising to a Tuscola Regional title. But as the postseason progresses the sledding gets a little tougher. Against Harrisburg, the Rams had to come up with a little extra and they did it.
It wasn't just the extra effort in the 8th to get the winning run, it was extra effort from starter Eli Miller and extra effort and a heads-up play by Caleb Eloe at 3rd.
"I've seen Eli pitch for five years and it was his best game ever," said Ram coach Sam Mehl. "He had one walk, one hit batter in six innings and struck out nine against a good hitting team."
Harrisburg had a 2-run 3rd inning and the Rams were scoreless. They didn't answer right away, but and inning later they did, with their own 2-run spurt. Two men were on for lead-off man Eli Miller and he brought them home with a single to tie the game.
Harrisburg had spent their magazine in the 3rd. Thanks to the Ram pitching and defense that held them in check. The Rams, however, had one in the chamber.
The teams were tied at the end of regulation 2-2 through seven innings. Senior Andrew Hawkins (10-1) came on in the 7th to try to close out Harrisburg.
It didn't start well. Harrisburg needed just one run for the win and the first two batters reached base and were at 2nd and 3rd. The infield came in to try to keep the run from scoring on a ground ball. He hit a ground ball. The runner couldn't score from 3rd, but the batter was safe, loading the bases with no outs.
Harrisburg had to feel good, then Eloe pulled the rug out from under them. The infield was still in, which figured in the next play.
"Their lead-off batter is going to the U of I on a scholarship," said Ram Coach Sam Mehl. "He hit a ground ball to Caleb at 3rd and Caleb tagged the runner from 3rd and threw to 1st for the double play. Andrew then got a fly ball to get out of it."
In the top of the 8th, the #3 and #4 Ram hitters were all they would need. Senior home run king and RBI leader since his freshman year, Luke Hatfield, hammered a triple.
"They brought the Roper kid in and he was throwing hard," Mehl said. "But, we can hit fast pitching."
Hatfield was sitting just a few yards away when the very next batter, Nate Standerfer, connected on a single for the go- ahead run, 3-2.
Hawkins and the Ram defense did the rest in the bottom of the 8th, holding Harrisburg scoreless for the 5th straight inning and punching their ticket for the title game against Teutopolis on Saturday.
Hawkins allowed no hits and no runs in his two innings of work. He didn't walk a batter and struck out one to get the win.
"This was an exciting game," Coach Mehl said. "The best game I've ever been a part of coaching."
Shelbyville (24-3) will play Teutopolis at 11 a.m. in the championship game of the Teutopolis Regional on Saturday.
Teutopolis Sectional Semi
Shelbyville 3, Harrisburg 2
Shelby 000 020 01--3-8-1
H'burg 002 000 00--2-4-0
Ram stats: Miller 2-for-4, 2B, 2 RBIs; Keown 0-for-4; Hatfield 1-for-2, 2 BBs, 3B, Standerfer 1-for-4, FC, RBI; Yockey 0-for-4; McConnell 2-for-4, run; Manship 1-for-4 (CR Hendryx run); Hawkins 1-for-3, BB; Eloe 0-for-3. Pitching (W) Hawkins 2 IP, 0 runs, 0 hits, 0 BBs, 1 K; Miller 6 IP, 2 runs, 4 hits, BB, HBP, 9 Ks.