SAUGET — The Teutopolis Wooden Shoes weren’t perfect Monday in the Class 2A Sauget Super-sectional, but they were close enough.
Teutopolis starter Mitch Hemmen took a perfect game into the seventh inning only to lose it on a two-out error, but his near perfection was good enough to defeat Harrisburg, 3-0. The Wooden Shoes advanced to state for the third straight year and seventh time in 10 years.
The Shoes (26-8-1) will be shooting for their fourth state title in those nine seasons beginning at 5 p.m. Friday in the semifinals of the Class 2A state tournament at Dozer Park in Peoria.
With two outs in the seventh, Harrisburg starting pitcher Isaac Crabb grounded to Teutopolis shortstop Dawson Smith. Smith fielded the short hop, but lost the handle as he attempted to transfer the ball to this throwing hand.
Crabb beat out the play, giving Jack Martin a chance to keep the game alive. Martin grounded the ball to Smith, who redeemed himself by getting a force out at second.
It was the first no-hitter of Hemmen’s career.
“You know what, before the game one of my teammates said, ‘Mitch, why don’t you throw a perfect game today?’” Hemmen said. “I’m like, ‘Whatever.’ I just had it fall my way.”
And, Hemmen was well aware of the perfect game entering the seventh.
“The last inning I was kind of like, ‘Ooooh, the top of the lineup and stuff,’” he said. “You just have to put it past you and get outs.”
Harrisburg struck out just three times in the game, but the Bulldogs rarely struck the ball hard.
Clean-up hitter Jack Martin lashed a line drive to right field to open the second inning, but right-fielder Mitch Hardiek caught the ball in his tracks. Creighton Morse led off the third inning with a shot that appeared destined for left field, but third baseman Trenton Schwerdt dove to his left, righted himself quickly and threw Morse out.
“I started out throwing hard, throwing strikes,” Hemmen said. “They were putting the ball in play. My defense was making plays. It just fell in the right place for me.”
The right-hander was ahead in the count all day.
“Yup, strike one, making them battle me,” Hemmen said. “I just went right at them. I was just pounding my fastball, hitting the low outside corner, seeing what they could do with it.”
In the meantime, Teutopolis didn’t exactly bash the ball off Harrisburg starter Isaac Crabb. However, some well-placed hits resulted in RBIs.
Brady McMahon worked Crabb for a walk to lead off the third. A sacrifice bunt and a ground ball later, he was standing on third. The Wooden Shoes got their first run when Luke Ungrund beat out a high chopper to second.
Teutopolis added another run in the fourth when Crabb walked a pair of hitters and McMahon’s ground ball found its way up the middle. The Wooden Shoes added their final run in the sixth.
“Again, it’s what I told the kids, ‘It’s baseball,’” said Harrisburg coach Jay Thompson. “Every ball we hit was right to them. To their credit, they made the plays. They hit two or three ground balls up the middle, two to the right side that were just ordinary ground balls, they’re just in the right place.”
Harrisburg (30-9) entered the game on a 19-game winning streak.