In 2004, the Helias Crusaders dropped a pair of one-run decisions to finish fourth in the Class 4 baseball Final Four in Columbia.
It was Helias' 11th trip to the Final Four in 25 years, five of which ended with state championships. The Crusaders had Final Four appearances as their goal each season and they had reached it nearly half of the time.
The goal has always been getting back to the Final Four. Fifteen years later, they're getting ready for appearance No. 12.
"It's hard to get to the Final Four," Helias coach Chris Wyrick. "I thought we had something good going, getting to the Final Four was just something we did.
"But it's hard and I think we're appreciating it more this time."
Helias (23-4), ranked No. 2 by the Missouri High School Baseball Coaches Association, will face unranked Borgia (21-7) in the semifinals at 4 p.m. today at CarShield Field in O'Fallon.
It will be the second meeting of the season between the Crusaders and the Knights. Helias defeated Borgia 2-0 on April 1 at the American Legion Post 5 Sports Complex.
Obviously, there's a lot more on the line this time.
"Motivation should not be a problem for either team," Wyrick said. "They know us, we know them. It's going to come down to who pitches the best, who executes on offense and who makes the routine plays on defense."
There are positives and negatives coming out of the first meeting for both teams.
"I'm sure they're going to be focused on getting us in the one that really counts," Wyrick said. "On our side, we know what they like to do, how they're going to try to get us out."
Zach Davidson went the distance that day on the mound for Helias, tossing a two-hitter to go along with three walks and eight strikeouts in the shutout. Davidson is 7-1 this season with a 1.50 ERA.
"It was one of Zach's better games this season," Wyrick said.
Pitching depth is the strength of the Crusaders.
"I have confidence in anybody we put out there, they've all gotten guys out all season," Wyrick said. "The key is throwing good pitches, if you don't, you're not going to get anybody out, it doesn't matter who you're playing. It's simple."
James Schaefer is 5-1 with a 2.30 ERA for the Crusaders. Kaleb Haley (2.23 ERA) and Dawson Meyer (2.59 ERA) are both 4-0.
"If one guy doesn't have it, we have the pitching depth that we can put another guy out there who can keep us in the game," Wyrick said. "It's definitely our strength."
Joe Schmidt took the loss for Borgia against Helias, throwing a complete game. The senior right-hander allowed six hits and three walks while striking out five. Helias scored its runs on an error and a groundout. Borgia committed three errors in the game.
Schmidt leads the Knights with 10 starts and 47 innings. He has a 3.43 ERA and has totaled 43 strikeouts.
Wyrick, who said Davidson is Helias' "likely" starter, figures the Crusaders will see Schmidt again today.
"We're working on what he has," Wyrick said. "Good fastball, a changeup, a curveball."
The curveball has plagued the Crusader offense at times this spring.
"The word got out on us probably in the middle of the season, we're trying to get better at it," Wyrick said. "The key thing is we need to hit the pitches we can handle and not chase the ones we can't."
Helias is hitting .309 as a team, averaging seven runs per game.
The top of the Crusader order — Zach Woehr, Zach Paschal and Trevor Austin — makes the Crusader offense go.
"They've been rolling lately and it's gotten us rolling," Wyrick said. "When those three get on base like they have been, it makes it a lot easier for our No. 4, 5 and 6 guys to bring them in."
Woehr is hitting .350 with 32 runs scored. Paschal is averaging .286 with 23 RBI, while Austin is hitting .465 with 35 runs scored and 23 RBI. Hitting out of the cleanup spot, Jacob Weaver tops Helias with 26 RBI.
"It takes pitching, defense and timely hitting to win championships," Wyrick said. "We've done those three things for much of the season and if we can do that two more times, we have a chance to win a championship."
Wyrick wants the bottom of the lineup to fight in their at-bats.
"I don't care how we get on base," he said. "Walk, error, getting hit by a pitch, getting a hit, just get on. That gives the guys at the top a chance to drive them in and makes our offense tougher for our opponent."
At No. 2, Helias is the highest-ranked team in the Final Four. Third-ranked Westminster Christian (28-6) and fourth-ranked Savannah (25-1) will meet in the second semifinal at 6:30 p.m. today.
"At this point, everybody is a good team," Wyrick said. "You couldn't get this far if you weren't. There is no favorite. The winner is going to be who plays the best over two days."
Wyrick wants the Crusaders to enjoy the trip to the Final Four and just continue to do what got them there.
"You only get to play so many high school games in your career," he said. "There are schools out there with more wins than we have games. So every game should matter and for the most part, we've shown that they matter to us this season."
The championship game is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. Friday. The first Class 2 semifinal game was suspended Wednesday and plays resumes today.
As a result of the schedule adjustment, the Class 2 state championship game will be played at 11 a.m. Friday. The Class 4 third-place game has been canceled.
"We have a new appreciation of just how hard it is to get where we're at right now," Wyrick said.