No. 10 T-Town edges No. 14 Harrisburg in 2A sectional

By Drake Skleba

ROBINSON, IL – Two of the best Class 2A teams in the state put on an outstanding show in the second Robinson Sectional semifinal on Wednesday night. No. 10 Teutopolis answered No. 14 Harrisburg's two-run top of the sixth with a two-spot of its own to win a 5-3 classic battle.

With the win, the two-time defending Class 2A champion Wooden Shoes advance to Saturday's sectional championship game with No. 20 Mount Zion (31-5) at 10 a.m.

An added treat was this game featured two of the top Class of 2013 right-handed pitching prospects in Teutopolis’ Kyle Pruemer and Harrisburg’s Ryne Roper. Neither junior disappointed.

The 6-foot-5, 230-pound Pruemer’s fastball was in the 86-90 range, and flashed an impressive split-change. Roper, a University of Illinois recruit who’s ranked No. 2 in the state, was consistently 87-89 mph with his fastball, touching 90. He also snapped a few nasty 80-mph curveballs.

Pruemer (6-1) faced the minimum through three innings, allowing a single to Bulldog freshman Cooper Thompson, who was gunned down at second trying to stretch his single into a double. Pruemer struck out four of the nine Bulldog hitters he faced. Meanwhile, Roper (6-4) was perfect, facing nine and retiring nine, including three via the strikeout through the first three innings.

With the score deadlocked 3-3, Teutopolis (30-9) finally pulled away with one out in the bottom of the sixth. That’s when senior Mark Niebrugge singled, followed by a Pruemer single. Sophomore Bobby Wenthe then bounced a double-play ball to Harrisburg second baseman Cody Hall, who fired to Bulldog shortstop Cam Cummins, who tagged second and fired a laser to first baseman Cooper Thompson. Wenthe, with his blazing speed, beat Cummins throw by an eyelash at first.

The heads-up Niebrugge just kept running around third base and scored the eventual game-winner just beating the throw by Thompson at the plate.

“I figured it was going to be close at first base on the double-play attempt, so I just kept running, said Niebrugge. “When Bobby beat the throw at first I was able to just beat the tag and score the game-winner.”

Teutopolis broke a scoreless tie in the bottom of the fourth. Pruemer singled home shortstop Jared Waldhoff, who had walked and, when the Bulldog center-fielder booted the ball, junior Chase Wendling scampered home for a 2-0 T-Town lead.

“A great win over a great pitcher and team tonight,” said Pruemer. “We knew we had to come out and play well. I felt good on the mound and threw well tonight. Roper throws smoke and I hit a curve ball on the single in the fourth. Mount Zion is really good. One through nine they all hit the ball. It's going to be a tough game for us.”

Wenthe followed with an RBI double and the Wooden Shoes led 3-0 after four innings.

“We beat one of the best juniors in the state tonight,” said Wenthe. “All my hits were on two-strike counts. I did what coach said to, by shortening up and just going with the pitch.”

In the top of the fifth, the never-say-die Bulldogs began their comeback. John A. Logan-bound right-fielder Tyler McGowan took a Pruemer fastball over the right-field fence to cut the T-Town lead to 3-1.

In the top of the sixth, Harrisburg cut the lead to 3-2 on a clutch RBI double from senior Cummins, scoring freshman Sykes Thompson. The battling Bulldogs tied things up at 3-3 when Cummins danced home on a Pruemer wild pitch.

After Niebruggie's larceny, Wooden Shoe senior catcher Brandon Hemmen singled home Wenthe with a huge insurance run in the bottom of the sixth.

“I saw it in Mark’s eyes that he was just going to just keep coming around third to score he game-winner,” said Teutopolis head coach Justin Fleener. “What a great match-up between two of the top junior pitchers in the state. Kyle was outstanding as well as Roper.

“We played great defense tonight turning a couple of double-plays,” added Fleener.  “It was a pleasure to watch my kids play so well tonight. It will be another battle with a very good Mount Zion team on Saturday.”

Harrisburg bows out at 28-9-1 for Bulldog head coach Jay Thompson. With seven returning position players returning in 2013 look for another big year for the 'Dogs.

“I'm so proud of this group,” said Thompson. “To achieve so much, being so young, was a great accomplishment for my kids. A play here, a play there, and we could have won this game and advanced.”

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