After a most unusual year that saw no postseason contests in any spring sports, 2021 is much different in that realm as things begin to open more and more.
The St. Joseph-Ogden varsity baseball team began regional play on Friday afternoon when they welcomed the Marshall Lions to the Glenn Fisher Athletic Complex in St. Joseph. One of the changes this season was the higher seeded team hosted in each round of the regional and sectional matchups, and since the Spartans were the top seed in their regional/sectional complex, they will host for the foreseeable future.
SJO wasted no time getting on the scoreboard as they scored a run in the bottom of the first inning and then tacked on three more runs in their half of the second to take a quick 4-0 advantage to give ace Crayton Burnett more than enough run support. Burnett (9-0), who recently signed his NLI to play at Illinois next season, has been superb this season, allowing just three earned runs in 53 2/3 innings of work, good for a staggering 0.39 earned run average.
“Crayton set the tone early in the game on the mound and Ty (Pence) came in and threw strikes that allowed us to get Crayton out of the game,” Spartans’ head coach Josh Haley said following the game regarding giving Burnett some rest on a very warm day.
SJO built an 8-1 lead through five innings of play, capped off by a towering home run by Burnett, his third of the season to give the Spartans a cushion that they would ride to the victory.
Senior Isaiah Immke was 3-3 at the plate for SJO with a run batted in and two runs scored, while junior Andrew Beyers went 2-4 with an RBI as well. Tyler Altenbaumer and Burnett each drove in two runs, while Coby Miller and Xander Rieches each drove in a run apiece for the Spartans (30-2), who rapped out 10 hits in the victory.
“I thought we tacked on runs each inning that kept the game out of reach for the most part. All in all, it was a good first step in our goal,” Haley added on his team’s performance and keeping the Lions well within distance.
Pence pitched the final three innings without allowing a single hit, while striking out six of the ten batters he faced. The depth of the Spartan pitching staff has been a strong point for the team all season, leading to their superior record and state ranking.
SJO advances to the regional championship on Monday afternoon against the Oakwood Comets, who defeated fellow Vermilion Valley Conference rival Westville 14-13 earlier in the day on Friday. The Spartans defeated Oakwood 7-1 early in the season in St. Joseph, so they are facing a team that they are familiar with. Game time on Monday afternoon is slated for a 4:30 pm first pitch.