CONCORDIA — Sacred Heart pitcher Nik Langston was able to work his way out of several jams as the Gremlins beat Concordia 8-5 in the Class 2, District 15 semifinal Thursday at Concordia.
“My defense played a big part of it,” Langston said.
Concordia put 16 runners on base in the game but stranded eight. Another was caught stealing and one was erased on a double play.
“Any time we got a good rally going they made some good plays,” said Concordia coach Nate Beissenherz.
Concordia loaded the bases with no one out in the fifth on a pair of singles and a hit batsman. But Langston induced a 6-4-3 double play to the next hitter and then ended the inning with a strikeout to hold Concordia to one run.
Concordia tried to start a rally in the sixth inning when leadoff hitter Truman Reith hit a ball into the gap in right-center, but Gremlins center fielder Jack Smith made a diving catch to rob him of extra bases.
“I see him make plays like that in practice all the time,” said Sacred Heart coach Jaric Reid. “That’s no surprise for us, really. It just gets me fired up seeing plays like that.”
Langston allowed 11 hits in the game, walked two and hit a batter, but struck out seven. Concordia also put the lead-off man on base in five of the seven innings.
“He walked too many leadoff hitters or he would get behind and groove one so they got a couple hard-hit balls there to lead off some innings,” Reid said. “Our defense didn’t really help him out in the early innings. We had the ball where the foot was pulled off the base, we had a circus going on there in left field, but they really pulled it together at the end. They tightened up the defense. Langston tightened it up on the mound and we got a couple of extra insurance runs we needed.”
But Concordia starter Cass Heimsoth struggled too, allowing five runs on six hits in two-plus innings on the mound.
“He just missed his spots a little,” Beissenherz said.
Heimsoth gave way to Austin Hon in the third, and Hon struck out five in four innings on the mound.
“He’s got great movement on his pitch and he’s a groundball pitcher,” Beissenherz said. “He’s been our closer all year.”
After scoring two runs in a loss to New Franklin Tuesday at Liberty Park, Sacred Heart scored four in the first, one in the third, two in the fourth and one in the sixth.
“When we played New Franklin we just left the bat on the shoulder too much,” Reid said. “We had so many strikeouts. You just have to swing the bat and be aggressive. Early in the game, pitchers are going to want to get ahead of you so they’re going to be around the plate. We’ve just got to swing the bats.”
Concordia struck first in the game, scoring a run in the top of the first when Heimsoth reached on a two-out error and scored on a double by senior catcher Hayden Brown.
Sacred Heart jumped out to a 4-1 lead by hitting around in the bottom of the first.
“We were seeing the ball really well,” said Gremlins shortstop Caleb Tanguay.
After Strange hit a one-out single to left, Tanguay followed with a shot to left.
“It was a first pitch fastball and I just jumped on it,” he said.
Tanguay got off to a slow start this season but has turned things around at the plate thanks to some advice from his dad, who told him to look for fastballs.
“Lately I’ve been seeing curveball first pitch so it’s nice to see a fastball first pitch,” he said.
Clint Spangler put Sacred Heart on the board with a double to center, scoring Tanguay and Strange. Langston followed that with a sacrifice fly to right to score Mason Kelchner and Chance Spangler singled up the middle to score Clint Spangler.
The Orioles chipped away at the lead and eventually tied the game in the third. Beydler scored on a groundout in the second to make it 4-2 Sacred Heart and Concordia put the first two runners on in the third before a Trent McGinnis single scored Heimsoth and a Jesse Flandermeyer single scored Brown.
Sacred Heart retook the lead in the bottom of the third. Ben Smeltzer hit a sharp grounder to short that Heimsoth knocked down but it was deep enough to allow Chance Spangler to score.
Sacred Heart got two more in the fourth when Tanguay, Kelchner and Clint Spangler hit back-to-back-to-back singles to open the inning with Tanguay scoring. Kelchner then scored on a Chance Spangler groundout.
The Gremlins’ final run came in the sixth. Clint Spangler singled and went to second on a balk. Langston drove him home with a single.
Tanguay and Clint Spangler each went 3 for 3 for Sacred Heart. Strange went 3 for 4.
Entering the game hitting 14 of his last 17, Heimsoth went 3 for 3 at the plate.
“He’s an all-state caliber player,” Beissenherz said. “On the mound he just didn’t have it. The last few games this year he’s been great. It just wasn’t happening on the mound for Heimsoth.”
Sacred Heart will face the winner of the Windsor-Lone Jack game in the district final Monday.
Concordia finished the season 6-5.
Windsor vs. Lone Jack postponed
In the second semifinal at Concordia, No. 1 seed Windsor and No. 4 seed Lone Jack were tied 0-0 after one inning when rain and lightening stopped the game.
Greyhounds pitcher Trevor Warlen worked out of a two-on, one-out jam in the first inning by inducing a fly ball and a strikeout to end the inning.
In the bottom of the inning, Warlen singled and courtesy runner Tristan Wetterow stole second and reached third on a passed ball but could not score.
The game will continue at 4:30 p.m. Monday at Concordia.
CLASS 2, DISTRICT 15 CHAMPIONSHIP: Sacred Heart vs. Lone Jack or Windsor
Monday at Concordia