Follow the News Tribune's Tom Rackers on Twitter at twitter.com/tjrackers for updates from today's St. Elizabeth vs. La Plata title game.
O'FALLON, Mo. — The St. Elizabeth Hornets scored four times in the top of the first inning in Tuesday afternoon's Class 1 semifinal.
"It was a big sigh of relief to strike first," St. Elizabeth coach Caleb Heckemeyer said. "The boys really seemed to relax and get into the game."
The Hornets then added two runs in the top of the seventh.
"That was a little bigger sigh of relief," Heckemeyer said as St. Elizabeth defeated the Cooter Wildcats 6-1 at CarShield Field. "It gave us a little bit more of a cushion."
Third-ranked St. Elizabeth (17-4) advances to today's 1:30 p.m. championship game against fourth-ranked La Plata (18-1), which scored in the bottom of the seventh inning Tuesday night to edge Weaubleau 1-0.
It will be the second straight season the Hornets have played in the championship game. Last year, St. Elizabeth fell 4-1 to Oran.
"It was big to get back here and even bigger to get this win," Heckemeyer said. "These kids worked very hard to get back here and they really want to finish it off this time."
Nolan Heckemeyer led off the game with a walk. Aaron Blomberg then laid down a first-pitch sacrifice bunt to get Heckmeyer to second before he advanced to third on a grounder by Coltin Green.
"Normally when (Heckemeyer) gets on, that's our road to success," Caleb Heckemeyer said. "The next two guys may have gotten out, but the middle of our lineup carried us like it has all season."
Dylan Wobbe singled to right to bring home Nolan Heckemeyer with the game's first run. Brock Lucas followed with a double to put runners at second and third.
Carson Kesel then singled to center to score Wobbe and Lucas to make it 3-0. Ross Struemph followed with double to left-center to plate Kesel with run No. 4.
The great start made things a little easier on Blomberg as he took the mound in the bottom of the inning.
"It was super nice," Blomberg said. "It really settled a lot of nerves."
Cooter got one of those runs back in the first. Edward McLevain drew a one-out walk, but was erased on a fielder's choice on a ball hit by Jacob Watkins that he barely beat out to avoid a double play.
Layton Robinson then doubled to right-center to plate Watkins to make it 4-1.
The walk to McLevain was Blomberg's lone free pass in the game.
"Aaron did really well," Heckemeyer said. "He missed his location a few times, but it didn't really come back to hurt him.
"He got guys out when he needed."
Cooter got runners at first and second in the second on back-to-back singles, but Blomberg got out of the jam with a pair of groundouts.
Blomberg then got on a roll, facing only 18 batters in the final five innings.
"It was just one pitch at a time, focusing on executing," Blomberg said. "I knew I needed to keep putting up zeroes as long as I could."
The Hornets sent eight batters to the plate in the top of the seventh when they scored their two insurance runs.
Wobbe led off with a double before Lucas walked. That was the end of the day for Cooter starter Dawson Treat as he reached his 105-pitch limit.
Kesel walked against Preston Hatch to load the bases before Wobbe scored on a throwing error on a ball hit by Struemph to make it 5-1.
After a 6-2-3 double play, Clayton Holtmeyer walked to load the bases. Nolan Heckemeyer followed with a walk to score Kesel to make it 6-1.
Blomberg had thrown just 83 pitches through six innings, so he went out to finish the game in the bottom of the seventh.
"It was super important to me to finish," Blomberg said. "It saved the bullpen, it lets us have some fresh arms (today)."
Blomberg closed his outing in style. He struck out the last two batters in the sixth, then opened and closed the seventh with strikeouts as well.
Blomberg tossed a five-hitter, walking one and striking out eight in finishing with 96 pitches.
The senior is looking forward to this afternoon's game against La Plata.
"We have some unfinished business in that game," Blomberg said.
Four Hornets — Nolan Heckemeyer, Wobbe, Lucas and Kesel — had two hits each in a 10-hit attack.
Caleb Heckemeyer wants the Hornets to take the lessons learned Tuesday into this afternoon's title game.
"If we're the home team (today), we need to make sure to shut the door on whoever we play in the first and then pounce on them in the bottom of the inning," he said.
La Plata had just three hits in its semifinal win Tuesday, while holding Weaubleau to two.