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Rehagen hurls Crusaders into title game at C.C. Invitational

Helias pitcher Matt Rehagen works to the plate during Friday night’s game against Rockhurst at Vivion Field.

Helias pitcher Matt Rehagen works to the plate during Friday night’s game against Rockhurst at Vivion Field. Photo by Kris Wilson.

Matt Rehagen probably didn’t break 70 miles per hour on the radar gun Friday night.

But you don’t need to throw hard to be successful on the mound.

The Helias junior, who found out he was going to get the start just an hour before the game, hurled a three-hitter to lead the Crusaders to a 3-1 victory against the Rockhurst Hawklets in the semifinals of the Capital City Invitational at Vivion Field.

“I just needed to keep the ball low,” Rehagen said. “When you keep it low, they’re going to hit in the ground and my teammates are going to make the plays behind me.”

It was a true team effort. Pitching coach Brent Schnieders called the pitches and Rehagen never shook off a sign, throwing 88 pitches (49 strikes) in the 1:20 contest.

“That was a team that played with emotion, with focus, and for each other,” Helias coach Chris Wyrick said. “Matt showed what he was made of and impressed the heck out of me.”

Rockhurst, which had three home runs among its 13 hits in a 19-3 opening victory Friday afternoon against Blair Oaks, couldn’t get comfortable against Rehagen.

“We figured he gave us the best chance to stay in the game with his off-speed stuff,” Wyrick said. “Hitters like Rockhurst, as aggressive as they are, we needed them to stay back and out of their element and that’s something Matt can do.”

With the win, Helias’ sixth straight, the Crusaders (6-2) advance to this afternoon’s title game against the Hickman Kewpies. Game time is 12:30 p.m. at Vivion Field. In Friday’s first semifinal, Hickman (7-2) trailed 9-2 at one point and scored five times in the bottom of the seventh to take a 14-13 victory from Eureka.

The Crusaders and Kewpies played Wednesday in Columbia, with Helias rallying for an 11-8 victory.

Helias took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first Friday night. Jared Bentlage ripped a one-out double before advancing to third on a wild pitch. Trevor Schnieders followed with a walk and Bentlage scored on the back end of a double steal.

The Crusaders got their other two runs in the second. With one out, Jordan Backes reached on a bunt single and stole second. He moved to third on a single by Brock Gerstner before scoring on a wild pitch.

Gerstner later came around to score on a single by Cole Distler to make it 3-0.

Rehagen, who faced the minimum nine batters through three innings, gave up the lone run in the fourth. Travis Able led off with a walk, stole second, moved to third on a grounder before scoring on a sacrifice fly by Jack Benninghoff.

The Hawklets threatened in the fifth, when a pair of walks had runners at first and second with two outs. But Rehagen got a fly out to center to end the threat.

“I knew my teammates would back me up and we’d be fine,” Rehagen said.

Rehagen then retired the next six Rockhurst batters to finish off the complete game.

“He was pitching so well, we wanted to give him the chance to finish it,” Wyrick said.

Rehagen finished with three walks and four strikeouts.

Helias got three hits off Rockhurst starter Joe Huber, who walked two and struck out six.

Rockhurst (6-1, ranked No. 3 in Class 5 by the Missouri High School Baseball Coaches Association) will face Eureka in the third-place game at 10 a.m. today at Vivion Field.

Helias has never won the Capital City Invitational, finishing second on two occasions.

III

Earlier Friday, Trevor Schnieders pitched the first six innings to get the win in a 10-5 decision against Blue Springs in the opening round.

Then after watching nine Wildcat batters come to the plate in the top of the seventh after moving to center field, Schnieders needed just three pitches to get the final out to get the save in his own victory.

“I’m not sure if he could get a win and a save in the same game, but he deserves it,” Wyrick said.

After allowing a run in the top of the first inning, Schnieders got stronger as the game went on. He allowed four hits and two walks while striking out nine in the first six innings, then ended with game with his 10th K.

“Some pitchers it takes some time to get into a rhythm and when Trevor found it, he was on,” Wyrick said. “We didn’t want to bring him back in to try and save his arm a little bit, but we needed him and he got the job done.”

Helias scored five runs in the bottom of the first on four hits, two walks and two Blue Springs errors. The Crusaders added two runs in the second and another in the third to take an 8-1 lead.

Single runs in the fifth and sixth made it 10-1 before Blue Springs scored four runs off two Helias relievers in the top of the seventh.

The Crusaders finished with nine hits and got seven walks from three Wildcat hurlers. Distler, Backes and Schnieders had two hits each. Backes also had two RBI as eight different Crusaders drove in runs.

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