By PAUL HINES email@example.com
---- — EFFINGHAM – The Rams biggest plays came in the most important moments of Monday’s 2-1 sectional final win against Triad.
“We’re a team,” Mt. Vernon shortstop Matthew Williams said. “We’ve always been a team.
“We’re a team, and it feels awesome.”
Collin Young delivered a two-run single to left in the third inning to put Mt. Vernon up 2-0.
With the Rams clinging to a 2-1 edge in the sixth, Williams helped turn a highlight reel double play.
Brock Fulkerson was the consistent undercurrent that tied the game together. The junior kept Triad hitters off balance all game.
The contest ended when Fulkerson pounced on the final ground ball in the seventh inning and tossed it to Colten Meador at first to secure the sectional title.
“You get those butterflies,” Fulkerson said of the final out. “You get a little nervous. You just have to make sure you make a good throw.”
Mt. Vernon’s only offense of the game came in the third inning.
Clayton Reeves led off the inning with a single. Sawyer Harrison moved Reeves to second with a bunt. Jake Pike stepped to the plate with two outs and was hit in the leg. The bases loaded when Landon Thomas drew a walk.
Young stood in and roped a solid single to left field. The hit scored Reeves and Pike, giving Mt. Vernon its 2-0 edge.
“I felt happy that I could do what I’m put there to do,” Young said. “The spot in the lineup coach (Tim) Holloway has said that I’m there to drive in runs and fight and scrap to get on base, and that’s what my goal is.”
Holloway said he knew his team wasn’t going to get many scoring opportunities against the Knights.
“That was just a tough, hard-nosed at-bat,” Holloway said. “And he came through big.”
Fulkerson ripped through the Triad lineup inning after inning.
Dalton Johnson had the Knights lone extra base hit of the game. It was a double in the opening inning. He moved to third on a sacrifice fly but was later stranded.
Triad’s best opportunities against Fulkerson came in the sixth inning when the Knights opened the inning with three straight hits to close the deficit to 2-1.
The Knight still had runners at first and second with no outs when Keaton Wright grounded a ball to Williams. The shortstop charged into the baseline, grabbed the ball and tagged Triad’s Lucas Criley. He fired a throw across the diamond for the double play.
“He ran into me, and I had the ball,” Williams said. “I pushed him and then threw the guy out at first.
“I felt like that was a game-changer in a way.”
The next batter grounded out to Meador at first base.
In the final inning, Fulkerson pitched around an error that put a runner in scoring position..
Mt. Vernon is 30-8-1 this season and faces Bloomington at 5 p.m. today in Sauget for a trip to the 3A state finals.
“It’s going to come down to the same things that got us to this point and that’s pitching, defense and clutch hitting,” Holloway said.
The victory marked the 30th win of the season for the Rams, a school record.
“That’s something that they’ve made their mark on history a little bit, and we want to keep this thing going,” Holloway said.