WARDSVILLE - The rubber match went to Blair Oaks.
After splitting the season series with Southern Boone, the Falcons got the win that mattered the most, an 11-1 six-inning victory in the second Class 3 District 13 Tournament semifinal Monday night at the Falcon Athletic Complex.
"Big sigh of relief," Blair Oaks head coach Harv Antle said. "Certainly another one of those games where it's a lot closer than the final score indicates. We had our hands full."
After third-seeded Southern Boone took a 1-0 lead in the top of the second inning, second-seeded Blair Oaks eventually responded with 11 unanswered runs to run away with the game.
"For five innings, it was a heck of a ball game," Southern Boone head coach Tony Phillips said. "Then the floodgates opened and what do you do?"
The Eagles scored their run in wild fashion. After Andrew Kent led off with a single, Nate Isenberg followed with a walk. Two wild pitches over the span of a couple batters moved Kent to third and then brought him home, as the second toss bounced off the Falcons' catcher and caromed all the way over the backstop.
That's all Southern Boone could get, though, as Blair Oaks ace Jacob Koelling shut the door after that.
"Jacob hit a rough patch there in the second inning," Antle said. "We had guys all over the bases, but to Jacob's credit, being the senior competitor that he is, he found a way to get out of that inning and minimize the damage. That was huge."
Koelling got the win by tossing all six innings and allowing four hits and three walks with 11 strikeouts.
"They knew they had to throw their ace or they were going home tonight," Phillips said. "Through five, they weren't real comfortable."
After a few missed chances, Blair Oaks finally broke through with two outs in the fourth inning, as Derek Otto smacked a bases-clearing triple to the gap in right to make it 3-1.
"It was his time to come through," Antle said. "That's what you expect your seniors to do. His big moment, he stepped up and had a big at-bat. Went down and got a breaking ball and drove it the other way. With his speed, it's an easy triple for him. Just because he's down in the nine-hole, it doesn't mean he's not a threat. He's certainly capable of that."
Southern Boone's Miller Bowles took the loss, allowing the three runs (all unearned) on five hits with four strikeouts.
"I think Miller Bowles is dynamite," Phillips said. "Any school that doesn't give him a shot is crazy. He's smart, he throws strikes and he keeps hitters off-balance."
After Blair Oaks took the 3-1 lead, the Falcons started to pour it on. Daniel Castillo and Ryan Abbott delivered consecutive RBI doubles in the bottom of the fifth to make it 5-1. Castillo was a perfect 4-for-4 with three singles and a double on the night.
Blair Oaks then put on the finishing touches with a six-run sixth to end the game on the mercy rule.
Logan Bax crushed an RBI triple to deep center, Beau Distler followed with a run-scoring single to left, Castillo tacked on an RBI single three batters later, Koelling helped his cause with a two-run base hit and Otto got the game-ending RBI with a bases-loaded walk.
"There in the sixth, we got things going," Antle said. "Some big two-strike hits in that inning were key. Did some more damage with two outs. Those are the kinds of things it takes to win in the district tournament."
Southern Boone finishes its season at 12-17.
"I'm saying good bye to eight seniors who have put Southern Boone baseball back on the map," Phillips said.
Blair Oaks (17-5) now takes on top-seeded Fatima for the district championship at 6 p.m. Wednesday in Wardsville. The Falcons topped the Comets 11-8 in last season's district title game. Fatima took a 17-9 win from Blair Oaks earlier this season in the seventh-place game of the Capital City Invitational.
"Just like last year," Antle said. "It's a matchup of two good clubs. It's a natural rival. Everybody knows everybody, we'll have a big crowd.
"We'e looking forward to it. Good club, no question about it. They're the one-seed for a reason. We hope that we can come out and play good baseball and pull the upset."