Joey Sprinkle’s first of two home runs broke a 2-all tie in the fifth and sophomore Jack Buckalew overcame some shaky defense early and went the distance in a 12-2 Regional semifinal victory over Tolono Unity in Class 2A boy’s high school baseball Regional semifinal action Friday from Tolono.
Hitting with one out in the fifth, Sprinkle sent a deep fly to right that looked at first like it would be playable for Gavin Moore in but thanks to a warm, southwest wind Friday, Sprinkle’s fly cleared the right field fence by a foot and put Monticello up for good.
Sprinkle would homer again in the seventh, propelling the Sages to a six-run inning that broke things open.
Buckalew started slow Friday, walking Dillon Rutledge to start the game. After Blake Kimball sacrificed Rutledge to second, an uncharacteristic throwing error put runners at the corners and only one out.
Tyler Hensch singled home Rutledge, then a routine flyball to shallow right field was dropped and the Rockets tacked on another run to make it 2-0.
But Buckalew came back to strike out the final two batters of the inning and rolled from there.
The sophomore set down 15 or 16 batters - the only base runner was Rutledge who was hit by a pitch in the second - before Hensch just missed a home run and doubled off the top of the center field fence with one out in the sixth inning.
Buckalew struck out 11 in seven innings, allowing two hits and walking two.
Monticello was able to get to Hensch, who was almost equally as effective as Buckalew most of the afternoon, in the third when Biniam (bin-E-um) Leinhart (linn-heart) walked to start the inning and took second after catcher Brock Suding had trouble getting the ball out of his mitt.
Tristan Foran, trying to sacrifice Leinhart to third, bunted up the third base line and beat out the throw to first, but Leinhart caught everyone off guard and sprinted home and slid across the plate without a throw to put the Sages on the board.
But the hustle paid off again, when Edmondson grounded out to third, Foran, who stole second, broke from second on the throw across, the ensuing throw back across the diamond to third bounced in front of his headfirst slide, third baseman Damian Knoll couldn’t handle the short-hop and the ball ended up at the fence allowing Foran to easily cross the plate and tie the game at two.
After Sprinkle’s big fly in the fifth, the Sages chased Hensch in the sixth when Andrew Rudolph drew a one-out walk, Hunter Williams singled to start the inning.
Kimball replaced Hensch and Leinhart greeted the junior with a base hit to center field. A good throw from Rutledge kept Rudolph at third and loaded the bases for Foran, who roped a line drive into the right-center field gap, scoring all three runners. Foran was thrown out at third trying to stretch the double to a triple, but the three runs made it 6-2 Sages.
Sprinkle’s second home run of the game was a no-doubter punctuated by the junior’s bat flip as he watched the ball fly over the scoreboard in left.
Jared Lockmiller, Williams, and Edmondson added RBI hits later in the six-run seventh.
Sprinkle finished 2-for-5, Foran finished 2-for-4 and was hit by a pitch. Sophomore Jacob Trusner, who hit a home run in one of the Sages' two victories of Unity last week, continued his hot streaks with a 2-for-3 afternoon and walked twice. Leinhart finished 1-for-3 with a walk.
Monticello improves to 14-5 overall and has won ten in a row and has won 12 of their last 14. They’ll go for a Regional final Monday afternoon opposite Maroa-Forsyth in Forsyth. Hear the action starting at 4:30 pm on 95.9 FM WEZC and online at dewittdailynews.com.