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PEORIA -- Teutopolis leadoff hitter Carson Hartke ripped a single down the third baseline on the game's opening pitch.

It was a sign of things to come.

The Shoes (30-6) built a 5-0 lead off three hits and five walks in the first inning and stomped all over Orion 11-0 in five innings in the Class 2A state semifinal at Dozer Park on a picturesque Friday evening.

They will appear in their fourth state championship game against last year's runner-up St. Joseph-Ogden at 5 p.m. today. The Spartans prevailed over Chicago Christian 5-2 in eight innings.

"It said we're ready to play and we're ready to hit the ball," Teutopolis senior outfielder Lane Belleville said.

Belleville walloped the Chargers in particular. 

He finished 4-for-4 with four RBIs and three runs. He topped it off with a deep, 2-run blast over the left field wall in the top of the fifth.

"I didn't think I would go 4-for-4," Belleville said. "But yeah, I just tried putting the best swing out there and I just tried to get ahead of the count, which I typically did.

"There was definitely some nerves in the first at-bat. After that first hit, I really felt settled in and calm. The nerves were practically gone."

He didn't expect a colossal lead so early either.

Senior infielder Jason Kenter first drove in Hartke on a hit-and-run to the left field gap and ended the game 3-for-4 with an RBI and two runs.

"The hit-and-run was on and thankfully the shortstop made a run to second because the runner was stealing and I hit it right between shortstop and third base -- picture perfect," Kenter said.

Although the next two batters faltered, Orion unraveled after Belleville's RBI-single.

The Chargers (21-13) walked the next five batters and needed a third pitcher to get the final out of the inning.

Starter Brady Grafton was charged for all five runs and the loss in 2/3 innings.

"It's a big stage and we've never been here," Orion coach Jeremy Jungwirth said. "We just didn't execute the game plan. They've been here seven of the last 11 years for a reason, and we knew they were going to hit it. But, we didn't follow it up with strikes. Sometimes when it starts rolling downhill, it's hard getting back uphill."

By the end of the second inning, Teutopolis led 7-0 off just four hits. The Shoes totaled nine hits and nine walks.

"I thought we would press the issue a little bit when Carson got on with a hit," Teutopolis coach Justin Fleener said. "We're batting first and we're going to try to be a little bit more aggressive. 

"We had some good at-bats. The guys not just barreled the balls up, but I thought we were real disciplined and didn't chase pitches that were close. I thought we did a good job of that."

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It made everything a cinch for Teutopolis starting pitcher Brock Bueker. He carved up Orion with eight strikeouts and just two hits in a complete game.

Bueker (3-2) painted the corner of the strike zone for the game's last out.

"Any lead you feel comfortable going out there," Bueker said. "The first couple of innings we were trying to pound fastballs. The next round I was throwing curveballs and the curveballs were working well tonight and I threw a couple of changeups and they were feeling good."

Bill's take

Moving around

Kenter has become invaluable in the Shoes' hitting lineup.

He started out near the bottom of the order but moved up to the No. 2 spot early in the season while Fleener searched for the right combinations.

It's worked out.

Teutopolis is riding a 19-game winning streak.

"Middle of the year everything wasn't clicking real well," Kenter said. "Fleener, the great coach he is, he made some adjustments to the lineup and it's been working real well for him."

Kremer on deck

Teutopolis will start junior right-hander Eric Kremer for today's championship game against St. Joseph-Ogden.

He's 7-0 with a 1.37 ERA. 

Belleville will be a strong option behind him. He's also 7-0 with 1.57 ERA and picked up the win against Nashville in the Sauget Super-sectional on Monday.

"I think Eric or whoever is going to pitch on the mound is going to give us a chance in the end to win it," Bueker said.

Late start

The semifinal was scheduled to start at 5 p.m. but did not kick off until 6:35 p.m. after the first 2A semi between St. Joseph-Ogden and Chicago Christian went into extras.

St. Joseph-Ogden (27-7) bungled its 2-1 lead in the bottom of the seventh with two outs when the right fielder dropped a fly ball, scoring the game-tying run.

But the Spartans rallied in the top of the eighth with four hits and three runs for their second straight state championship game appearance.

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Sports Writer for the Herald & Review

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