MOUNT VERNON — Herrin held off Centralia 5-3 in Thursday’s 3A regional semifinal matchup.
“We played a little tentative today, and it showed,” Centralia coach Todd Bauer said. “We weren’t competing like we should in a meaningful game. Defensively we were really bad. And we’ve faced a lot of lefties lately, and we just haven’t hit them. And we didn’t compete well at the plate today.”
Herrin starting pitcher Hunter Serena was one out short of a complete game. He allowed four hits and two walks. He fanned eight batters.
Centralia briefly led 2-1 after trailing 1-0 early. Herrin struck for a score in the opening inning. Talan Nemeth started the game with a double. He later scored on a double play groundout.
The Orphans got the game even in the bottom of the second. Small ball turned into a score for Centralia. Starting pitcher Lane Griffin helped his own cause with a walk. He moved all the way to third after a sacrifice bunt and a wild pitch. Griffin came in to score on a fielder’s choice.
Centralia grabbed a 2-1 lead in the third. Malik Myers and Cruz Harlan started the inning with back-to-back singles. Cam Newcomb followed with a fly out to left field. The sacrifice scored Myers to give the Orphans the advantage.
The turning point came in the top of the fourth. The Orphans committed four errors in the frame. Centralia finished the game with six miscues. Herrin pushed across a pair of runs on one hit. Both Nick Hubbard and Evan Young crossed the plate on Centralia mistakes.
That gave the Tigers a 3-2 cushion. Herrin added to the margin in the top of the sixth. Another Centralia error allowed Young to reach to open the inning. The next batter Eli Faulkenberry knocked a double to score Young.
The Tigers took a 5-2 lead when Fox Connor hit an RBI single to center.
“Higher seed or not, we know they have a decent team and they can win,” Bauer said. “They came out and played to win and we came out a little more tentative, I guess. And we kind of accepted it and took it instead of going out there and punching them in the mouth. They came out and put some pressure on us, and we were on our heels all game.”
Centralia clawed back a run in the bottom of the seventh. Cruz Harlan drove in a run with a single. Serena was lifted for reliever Eli Watkins with two outs. Watkins ended the game when he got Cam Newcomb to ground out to shortstop.
Griffin pitched a complete game for the Orphans. He allowed eight hits and fanned three batters without a walk.
“Lane threw great. That’s what he’s done all year,” Bauer said. “(He’s) given up one, maybe two earned runs.
Centralia finished the season with a 18-15 record. Herrin improved to 11-18 and plays Mount Vernon in Saturday’s regional final.