Spencer Heineman is known for spurring the Southwestern High baseball team with his pitching and hitting.
On Wednesday, he did it with his defense.
The left fielder made a diving catch and turned it into a game-changing double play during the Piasa Birds’ 3-0 semifinal regional win. They blanked host Metro East Lutheran in the Knights’ 2A Regional and advanced to Saturday’s championship game. It’s set for 10 a.m.
“I’d say it’s the best defensive play I’ve made all year,” said Heineman, also 10-1 as a pitcher and a .360 hitter. “I got a good jump on the ball and took a couple of steps in to catch it.”
The Knights, trailing 2-0 in the fourth inning, loaded the bases with one out. MELHS pitcher Sam Whitmore hit a sinking line drive to left field. Heineman made a diving catch and turned it into an inning-ending double play.
“That was a big play on defense and our defense has been carrying us,” Southwestern coach Brian Hanslow said. “It has been strong all season.”
Heineman added, “For the most part, we are known for our pitching and defense.”
Southwestern made three runs on three hits and took advantage of four errors and a pair of passed balls to improve to 22-11. Brendan Schiller contributed a run-scoring single in a two-run second.
Metro Lutheran, which ousted East Alton-Wood River, 3-0, in its regional opener, finished 7-22. Whitmore, the losing pitcher, allowed only one earned run in six innings.
The Piasa Birds’ Adam Keene hurled five scoreless innings. Andrew Fry and Heineman each pitched one inning in a game delayed 90 minutes because of rain and lightning.
“Our pitchers threw strikes, even though we had to start and stop a couple of times," Hanslow said, referring to the inclement weather.
Roxana meets Staunton at 4:30 Thursday in another regional semifinal. The winner plays Southwestern Saturday for the right to go to the Warrensburg-Latham Sectional.
“We have to play hard every game and compete,” Heineman said. “It would mean a lot to us if we can win the regional.”
Marquette Catholic 8, Rochester 7 – The Explorers scored an eighth-inning run to defeat the Rockets and improve to 18-10. Marquette had scored three times in the seventh to take a 7-6 lead before Rochester knotted things in the bottom of the inning.
Geoffrey Ferguson collected three hits and three RBIs for the winners. Carter Hayden added two hits and Austin Siener knocked in two runs. Max Goepel and John Hughes both pitched four winners for Marquette.
Alton 5, Jersey 3 – The Redbirds reached the 20-win plateau by beating Jersey in a nonconference game.
A four-run sixth made the difference for 20-14 Alton, which was outhit 7-5. Steven Nguyen had two hits for the Redbirds and Wil Lewis supplied a pair of RBIs. Crick Kimble and Jake Varble both had two hits for the Panthers.
Varble tripled and homered and had two RBIs for 20-12 Jersey. Kimble absorbed the loss, but two errors by the Panthers, including four walks, highlighted the Alton sixth.
Winning pitcher Bryan Hudson twirled a complete game and struck out 10.
Southwestern 2, Gillespie 0 – Bailee Stahl was at her best in tossing a no-hitter for a regional semifinal victory.
She struck out two and walked two against Gillespie in the Miners’ Class 2A Regional. Katie Wooldridge’s two-run double in the sixth proved to be the difference. Teammate Lindsey Synder pitched in with two hits.
Southwestern advanced to Saturday’s 11 a.m. championship contest against Litchfield, a 7-4 winner over Carlinville in semifinal action.
Staunton 6, EA-WR 0 -- The Oilers season came to at end at 13-18 after they bowed to Staunton in a semifinal game of the Hillsboro Class 2A Regional.
East Alton-Wood River managed only two hits. Losing pitcher Toria Beachum gave up six hits and all six runs, including two in the fourth and three in the fifth.
Morehead State 11, SIUE 6 – The Cougars, seeded fourth in the Ohio Valley Conference Tournament at Jackson, Tenn., dropped their tourney opener.
The winners built a 6-0 lead and never looked back in putting the 21-32 Cougars in a precarious position for the double-elimination tournament. Nick Lombardo sparked SIUE with a bases-loaded triple in the third inning.
The Cougars got to within 6-4 in the fourth, but fifth-seeded Morehead State scored four times in the fifth. SIUE is scheduled to play Jacksonville State at 11 a.m. Thursday. Sixth-seeded Eastern Illinois upset Jacksonville State, 2-1, in another opening-day tourney game.
Tennessee Tech is slated to play Morehead State at 3 p.m., followed by top-seeded Southeast Missouri tangling with Eastern Illinois at 7.