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PEORIA -- Carson Hartke always expects a fastball right down the heart of the plate on the game's opening pitch.

Hartke never shied away from them on the biggest stage.

The Teutopolis senior lead-off hitter struck the first delivery, again, with a double to deep left field in the Class 2A state championship game against St. Joseph-Ogden at Dozer Park on Saturday.

It fired up the rest of the team and the Shoes thumped St. Joseph-Ogden 10-2 for their third state title in school history after going back-to-back in 2010 and 2011.

"I know that's going to be the best pitch I'm going to be able to get, so I always look for it to see if it's there and hit it if I can," said Hartke, who also led off Friday's 11-0 win over Orion with a quick single. "It was a great feeling. It's always good to start a game off with a hit and that always gets the boys riled up."

Hartke was only getting started. He skied another double to the opposite field for a 2-0 lead in the second inning and ended his high school career 3-for-4 with two RBIs and four runs.

The batter behind him, Jason Kenter, was just as effective.

He extended the lead to 3-0 by driving home Hartke in the second and went 4-for-4 with three RBIs and one run.

"That's what he does," Kenter said of Hartke. "He comes up and gets on in the first at-bat. I try to do my thing and get him in or get him over. We're just trying to get runs on the board in the first inning. That's the big thing."

Teutopolis (31-6) accumulated 14 hits and led 8-0 through the top of the sixth.

"We didn't settle in one bit," Kenter said. "We were anxious to get more. We didn't want to take anything for granted and we kept getting as many runs as we could because we don't want to stop until the last out."

Hartke, a shortstop with a .391 batting average, wrapped it up with a double play.

Starting pitcher Eric Kremer jammed up his hitter, scooped up the ball and tossed it to Hartke who then fired it off to first baseman Lane Belleville for the last two outs.

"I've been waiting for a long time because we're one of the only grades to go through junior high and not win anything," Belleville said. "We came in and senior year we win. That's pretty spectacular."

It was as crisp as Teutopolis had been throughout the entire tournament. The Shoes beat their last two opponents by a combined score of 21-2.

"We peaked at the right time," Teutopolis coach Justin Fleener said. "The guys really started believing and having confidence. Our at-bats and defense was solid. We minimized our mistakes and we had two great pitching performances (by Brock Bueker on Friday and Kremer on Saturday). When you're able to put that together, you're putting yourself to make good things happen."

Kremer (8-0) was immediately swarmed and tackled by his teammates after his complete game.

The 6-foot-6 junior right-hander didn't go down easy.

"I was standing up for a while but Kenter finally got me and took me down," Kremer said. "My hat went flying and everybody was yelling. It was one of the best feelings ever."

Kremer thwarted the Spartans (27-8) with constant off-speed pitches and gave up just five hits with five strikeouts. Both of St. Joseph's runs were unearned.

"I definitely threw a lot more off-speed this game to try to keep their hitters off-balance," Kremer said. "It's a great team over there. I usually don't throw my curveball as much. In the last game, I threw two curveballs. This game, I threw 20 or 30 of them. You got to do what you got to do to get outs."

Bill's take

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Turning it around

The Shoes finished out the year on an incredible 20-game winning streak.

They last fell at Mount Zion 11-6 on April 21, which incidentally dropped them to 11-6.

Fleener's faith never wavered after catching a glimpse of just how special they could be during the fall season.

"We played well in the fall and I thought if we continued to put things together and continue to get a little bit better, I thought we could make some noise in the postseason," said Fleener, who was making his seventh state appearance. "I'm not going to sit here and say we planned on being here. That was our goal, but we knew we had some good teams to move through and we played some good ball at those times."

Missing out

St. Joseph-Ogden settled with state runner-up for the second straight year, previously losing to Braidwood Reed-Custer 7-6 in the 2016 championship game.

Senior left-hander Mason Coon (8-2) came in with a 1.58 ERA but yielded nine hits and eight runs in 5 1/3 innings.

"I don't think we were jolted whatsoever," St. Joseph-Ogden coach Josh Haley said of the first inning. "I think they came up and put some good swings on the ball early in the game. Mason was good early. He left some fastballs up and they took advantage of it."

Small ball

Teutopolis didn't just barrel up the ball.

It also executed the little things to absolute perfection.

The Shoes used a sacrifice bunt in the second and fourth innings to move runners into scoring position, and Hartke twice capitalized with RBI hits.

Hartke also successfully read a wild pitch and barely beat out the throw to second base in the fourth. Kenter then doubled down the left field line for a 5-0 advantage.

"The situation called for it," Fleener said of the sacrifice bunts. "I don't do it a lot but we did it a couple of times today, especially with the top of the lineup doing what they were doing."

Getting ahead

After going 4-for-4 against Orion on Friday, Belleville appeared to be on his way with another scorching day at the plate.

The Maryville University commit singled to left field in his first at-bat but then lined out straight to the left fielder and finished 1-for-4.

It didn't matter.

Eight different players contributed a hit.

"That first hit by Carson set the tone," Belleville said. "After that, we just kept hitting. I feel like it was because we were getting in good counts again like last night."

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Sports Writer

Sports Writer for the Herald & Review

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