By PAUL HINES firstname.lastname@example.org
---- — SAUGET — Mt. Vernon’s baseball team launched itself into uncharted territory Tuesday.
“It’s awesome. There’s no other way to describe it,” Mt. Vernon’s Hayden Poninski said. “We went through our little bumps in the road during the regular season, and we’ve just caught fire recently.”
The Rams knocked off Bloomington 6-1 Tuesday in the super sectional to advance to the state finals. Only four 3A baseball teams remain. It’s the deepest postseason tournament run for the baseball team in school history.
“It’s a giant moment,” Mt. Vernon pitcher Tyler Ellis said. “I’ve played with all these kids all my life. I want to keep it going.”
Once again, pitching and defense fueled the Rams win, but Mt. Vernon got a little help from its offense also. It started in the opening inning. Jake Pike legged out an infield single to start the game. He moved to second on a fielder’s choice. Collin Young stepped to the plate and roped a solid single to left field. Pike raced around third and slid into home. The throw beat Pike, but the Bloomington catcher dropped the ball. Pike leaped to his feet, hurdled the catcher and tapped home plate to a 1-0 lead.
The Rams never looked back.
Mt. Vernon padded its lead in the third without a hit. Bloomington committed an assortment of miscues opening the door for the Rams. Bloomington pitcher Charlie Cerny loaded the bases after two hit batters and a walk with no outs. Then the errors started. Young scored for the Rams on an error to push the lead to 2-0. Trevor Flota and Matthew Williams raced home to score when the Purple Raiders botched a double play. The run gave Mt. Vernon a 4-0 edge.
“I think once we got the lead and then added on, that we feel pretty good with Tyler Ellis on the mound,” Mt. Vernon coach Tim Holloway said.
Tyler Ellis threw a complete game for Mt. Vernon. The Rams senior allowed just three hits and fanned five. Ellis limited the Purple Raiders’ offensive chances throughout the game and rarely allowed runners to move within striking distance.
“I felt like I struggled at the beginning,” Ellis said. “But I just finally found the groove and settled my nerves.”
The Rams kept adding on. This time the bat of designated hitter Hayden Poninski struck. With runners on second and third in the sixth, Poninski drove a ball into the left center field gap. The extra-base hit plated Williams and Clayton Reeves and gave the Rams a 6-0 cushion.
Bloomington pushed a run across in the final inning. It was only the third run scored against the Rams in the postseason.
Mt. Vernon is 31-8-1 overall and opens the state finals on Friday.
“Right now what I’m thinking about is all the work that has went into this,” Holloway said. “I see a lot of our former players up here in the stands, and they have a lot to do with this as well.”