Mt. Vernon’s baseball team will take the field Saturday searching for its school record 30th win of the season.
The Rams, who are playing in the sectional title game for the first time since a loss two season ago against Waterloo, have been a force this season.
Two of the biggest reasons are the team’s pitching and defense. The attributes have continued in the postseason. The Rams have yielded just a single run in three postseason victories.
The playoff run includes shutouts against the Rams most recent opponents - Centralia and Effingham. The only run allowed by the Rams came in the final inning of a blowout win over Herrin.
Mt. Vernon has a team fielding percentage of 97 as it enters the sectional final. The Rams have committed 35 errors in 37 games this year.
Mt. Vernon turned to its defense for a key play at the beginning of the fourth inning Wednesday against Effingham.
The Rams led 2-0 when Effingham’s Alex Carie opened the inning with an infield single. He took second after a wild pitch. Pitcher Brock Fulkerson erased Carie when he whirled and fired a pick off throw to Matthew Williams. The Rams shortstop slapped a tag on Carie for the out. It was the only runner the Flaming Hearts moved into scoring position against Fulkerson and the Rams.
The Rams defense is especially solid up the middle at catcher, shortstop and center field this season.
Collin Young has been near perfect behind the plate. The senior has allowed just three passed balls this season. He’s also gunned down 10 runners attempting to steal.
Williams mans the critical shortstop spot. He has eight errors in 149 chances and has been a part of nine double plays turned by the Rams.
Landon Thomas has 13 assists from his center field position and committed just four errors.
The Rams possess a pair of aces at the top of their pitching staff and sport a team earned run average of 2.20.
Brock Fulkerson leads the team with 10 wins. Two of his victories have happened in the playoffs. Fulkerson pitched the Rams past Herrin before his most recent win, a shutout against Effingham in Wednesday’s sectional semifinal.
Tyler Ellis has returned to his form from early this season after an injury. The senior has seven wins this year Ellis hurled a complete game in Mt. Vernon’s regional final win against Centralia.
Mt. Vernon tries for its first sectional title since 2001 at 11 a.m. Saturday.
Paul Hines is the sports editor at the Register-News.