SPRINGFIELD — For a brief moment, Brayden VonLanken injected life back into the Tuscola dugout.
After Pleasant Plains cranked out four hits and took advantage of two Tuscola errors in the top of the first inning to hop out to a four-run lead, VonLanken hammered a pitch that cleared every bit of the 365-foot wooden privacy fence in left field at Lincoln Land Community College to cut Plains' lead in half.
VonLanken rounded first and waved his arms up, as if to resurrect the dugout. It was the perfect spark the Warriors needed on Monday in the Class 2A Springfield (Lincoln Land) Super-sectional.
The momentum, though, stopped there. Plains added a run in the second and broke the game open with a six-run third inning on the way to a 12-2 win in five innings to punch its ticket to this weekend's state final four at Dozer Park in Peoria.
“I thought it would get our guys going ... a little momentum swing, maybe," VonLanken said of his homer. "They came out and they hit the ball. Credit to them. We couldn’t battle back after that."
Plains (25-11) had 15 hits and took advantage of five Tuscola (30-3) errors. Warriors starter Lucas Kresin, who had never really pitched prior to the season and entered the game with an 8-1 record and a 0.87 ERA, allowed 12 hits and seven earned runs.
“It’s not on Lucas at all," Tuscola senior Will Little said. "It’s just us. We’ve got to make plays. It just didn’t happen today. It was a bad day to not play our best baseball."
Plains coach Dave Greer got a good scouting report from his assistants, he said. They knew Kresin didn't walk many, so Greer told his hitters to stay back in the zone and swing away.
“They had a good approach against him," Tuscola coach Adam Carver said. "They hit some balls the other way and stayed back on his breaking stuff. He’s a kid who’s not really going to throw it by you. They had a pretty good approach in that aspect. Some of those early errors hurt and made him throw a lot of extra pitches, and some of those hits came after those big errors."
Said Greer: "He was going to be around the plate. We were prepared that if he was going to throw backwards, just sit early on the count and get after him. We did that. I knew we were ready to hit."
Plains starter Mason Williams entered the game having pitched just 13 innings after coming back from an injury. He needed only 40 pitches in four innings, allowing two hits and two runs while striking out two.
Tuscola made hard contact, but right at the Plains defenders to quell any momentum.
“The ball didn’t bounce our way today, VonLanken said. "They played really good."
Tuscola won on a walk-off against Plains in this same game last season en route to a third-place finish in Class 2A. Plains returned largely the same group of hitters and got contributions from its younger players on Monday.
“Last year after that heartbreaker, I just knew this group was going to be hungry and get after it," Greer said.