Prep Baseball

Sweet 16: Flesner's masterpiece delivers Suns' first regional title since 1998

By Herald-Whig
Posted: May. 21, 2019 12:10 am Updated: May. 21, 2019 12:32 am

CAMP POINT, Ill. -- A simple fist pump capped off a dominant performance.

Southeastern right-handed pitcher Shad Flesner watched catcher Colby Ellis fire the ball to first base for the final out of Monday's Class 1A Central Regional championship game.

The throw on the dropped third strike beat Liberty's Cannen Wolf to the bag, clinching Southeastern's first regional title since 1998 with a 5-2 victory.

Flesner raised his fist as Ellis came running for a hug. The rest of the Suns mobbed both of them moments later.

"This has been fun," Flesner said. "We haven't been the best baseball team, so winning a regional is fun, especially with these group of guys."

Flesner helped the ninth-seeded Suns (11-12) change their fortune. He was nearly untouchable against the Eagles, tossing a one-hitter while fanning 16 with three walks.

The lone hit in the third inning came when Wolf singled through the left side on a hit-and-run. Joe Owens advanced to third on the play and was allowed to score when a poor throw ended up in the third base dugout. A sacrifice fly by Cole Hanlin on the next at-bat cut fifth-seeded Liberty's deficit to 4-2.

Flesner locked in after that.

He retired eight of the next nine he faced, and the only base runner in that stretch reached on a dropped third strike. He struck out four in the bottom of the fourth and struck out the side in the fifth.

He struck out three more in the sixth despite issuing a walk and hitting a batter.

"I was feeling really good after five days of rest," Flesner said. "I was pumped. I was jacked."

The regional title game was originally scheduled for Saturday, but was rained out.

Those two extra days of rest allowed Flesner to pitch in the title game after throwing in the semifinals.

That worked well for Southeastern, which advances to play Illini Bluffs in Wednesday's Unity Sectional semifinals.

"When you have someone like Flesner who limits how often the ball is put in play and gets a lot of strikeouts, you've got a better chance to succeed," Southeastern coach Cyle Rigg said. "You're going to go with him. He's just a gamer and wants the ball in that situation."

A 2-0 lead before even setting foot on the mound gave him an advantage.

Southeastern's Brayden Winters led off with a walk and Jaise Heaton reached on a fielder's choice when Liberty pitcher Kutter Thompson tried to get Winters out at second on the bunt. Both runners advanced a base on a passed ball.

Winters scored on another passed ball, and Bishop Roberts drove in Heaton on a sacrifice fly to right.

"That's exactly what we didn't want to have happen in that first inning," Liberty coach Brigham John said. "I was proud of how we scratched a couple across. If we didn't let them score a couple more, it's a tie game that we're right back in."

The miscues allowed Southeastern to pad the lead. The Suns scored two more runs in the third as the Eagles (13-12) committed two errors. A walk, a sacrifice bunt and two passed balls allowed Brock Winters to score for a 5-2 lead in the fourth.

"We just made too many mistakes," John said. "When we get beat this year, it's the little things that get us. That's what happened today, and when you get to a regional championship game, you can't have that happen."

Thompson didn't allow a hit until a one-out single in the top of the sixth despite trailing 5-2.

"You try not to think about that," said Thompson, who struck out nine in 5 1/3 innings. "You just want to go up there and throw strikes. There's not much else you can do."

 

Class 1A Central Regional

Southeastern 5, Liberty 2

Southeastern 202 100 0--5 1 2

Liberty 002 000 0--2 1 2

Flesner and Ellis; Thompson, Hedrick (6) and Owens. WP--Flesner. LP--Thompson.