No. 6 Sacred Heart-Griffin, McElwee blank No. 10 Champaign Central

By Ryan Quigley
Illinois Scouting Director

June 4, 2014

SPRINGFIELD, IL- Two of the state’s top ranked teams, with a combined seventy wins between them, locked horns in Wednesday’s night’s Sectional Semi-final.  The combination of junior southpaw Ben McElwee and senior right-hander Connor Etheridge led the No. 6 ranked Sacred Heart-Griffin Cyclones (35-3) over No. 10 Champaign Central (35-3) 2-0 on the campus of Sacred Heart-Griffin’s beautiful “Field-Turf” artificial playing surface.

The Cyclones broke through in the fourth, possibly in thanks to the Maroons unfamiliarity with the bouncy playing surface.  Senior right fielder Steve Sartore led off with a ground ball single between first and second, and was sacrificed to second base.  Senior first basemen Nolan Aherin chopped a three-hopper to second base that took a late high-hop that was misplayed and the ball trickled into right field, scoring Sartore from first and putting Griffin on the board 1-0.

In the meantime, Ben McElwee was dominating the Champaign Central lineup with his fastball to earn the win, occasionally mixing in a slow 12-6 curveball.  The uncommitted left-hander fired five-and-one-third innings of two-hit baseball, striking out six and walking only one. 

Champaign Central’s sophomore second baseman Jake Snider broke up the no-hitter in the fourth with a single up the middle off McElwee’s glove hand.

For the Maroons, sophomore Phillip Swartz twirled a complete game, pitching predominantly off a cutter/slider.  He allowed eight hits in his six innings of work, allowing two runs (one earned), with five strikeouts, and four walks.

Griffin tacked on an insurance run in the bottom of the sixth to make the final 2-0.  Junior pinch hitter Peyton Minder singled, bringing up lead-off man, junior Notre Dame-bound shortstop Cole Daily.  Daily bunted down the third baseline beating out the errant infield throw for a single, which allowed runners to move up to second and third with no outs.  Minder scored on senior centerfielder Conor White’s RBI sacrifice fly to right field.

Etheridge entered the game with one out in the sixth with McElwee tiring.  The cyclones middle infield of Daily junior second baseman Justin Zanger turned a smooth 6-4-3 double play in the seventh to end the game and Champaign Central’s highly successful season and earning  

Sacred Heart-Griffin plays Normal University High, who defeated Mt. Zion 7-5 in the night cap of the double header, on Saturday at 11 am at Griffin for the Sectional Championship.  Etheridge, Griffin’s Belmont University-bound senior ace, will be on the mound for the Cyclones.

Key Stats

+ Ben McElwee, SHG: W, 5.1 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 6 K, 2 BB

+ Connor Etheridge, SHG: SV, 1.1 IP, 0 R, 1 H

+ Cole Daily, SHG: 2-for-3, 2 1B, BB

+ Conor White, SHG: 1-for-2, 1B, BB, RBI, SAC

+ Steve Sartore, SHG: 2-for-3, 2 1B, 1 R, BB

+ Mitch Trees, SHG: 1-for-3, 1B, IBB

+ Phillip Swartz, CC: 6 IP, 8 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 5 K, 4 BB (2 IBB)

+ Connor Mapes, CC: 1-for-3, 1B

+ Jake Snider, CC: 1-for-3, 1B

+ Alec Barger, CC: 1-for-3, 1B