For the third consecutive Class 1 state baseball tournament, the St. Elizabeth Hornets will be playing for a title.
Brock Lucas threw a three-hitter Monday afternoon to lead St. Elizabeth to a 2-0 victory against the Leeton Bulldogs in the Class 1 semifinals at U.S. Baseball Park in Ozark.
"He really pitched well," St. Elizabeth coach Caleb Heckemeyer said. "His fastball, his curveball, he had command of it all."
Lucas struck out eight and walked just one in going the distance.
"He was able to blow his fastball by people and used his curveball to keep them off-balance," Heckemeyer said.
With the win, fifth-ranked St. Elizabeth (21-5) advances to this afternoon's title game against top-ranked Oran (23-4). Game time is 1:30 p.m.
Oran defeated St. Elizabeth 4-1 in the 2018 championship game before the Hornets claimed the 2019 title with a 2-1 win against La Plata.
The first inning set the tone Monday afternoon.
Leeton's Ethan Driskill led off the top of the first with Lucas' lone walk and moved to second on a single to center by Reed Manley.
After a popout on a bunt, Lucas gloved a grounder back to the mound. He threw to third for the force out, then third baseman Dylan Wobbe fired the ball to first to complete an inning-ending double play.
"That was a momentum shifter," Heckemeyer said. "For us to get out of it really quick was a big deal, it really relaxed our guys."
St. Elizabeth took the lead with a run in the bottom of the inning.
Lucas drilled a one-out triple into the right-field corner before Wobbe lofted a sacrifice fly to right to make it 1-0.
The Hornets had a chance to add to their lead in the bottom of the second. Caleb Oligschlaeger led off with a walk. After a pop out, Clayton Holtmeyer singled to put runners at first and second.
But Leeton starter Kyle Wilson was able to get the second out on a fielder's choice, then ended the inning on a strikeout.
Wilson, a lefty, went the distance on the mound. He allowed two runs on four hits and two walks while striking out five.
"(Wilson) is a slow-tossing lefty and that's been our Achilles heel this season," Heckmeyer said. "He threw a lot of stuff outside, our guys said it was breaking 3-6 inches away or down and in."
Lucas' defense helped him out in the third. With two outs, Driskill lined a shot to right for an apparent single. But St. Elizabeth right fielder Isaac Green charged the ball and threw Driskill out at first to end the inning.
The Hornets doubled their lead in the fourth.
Oligschlaeger led off with a liner to the gap in right-center that rolled all the way to the wall for a stand-up triple. Cole Otto followed with a sacrifice fly to right to make it 2-0.
"(Oligschlaeger) just smoked that ball and Cole had a good at-bat to bring him in," Heckemeyer said.
Lucas retired 15 straight Bulldogs before Driskill hit a two-out double to left in the top of the sixth. But Lucas got out of the inning with a grounder back to the mound.
The Bulldogs got a leadoff single by Cody Shackelford to start its half of the seventh. Lucas then got a force out at second before recording his seventh and eighth strikeouts to end the game.
Oran advanced to the title game by posting a 10-3 victory against Green City in Monday's first semifinal. Oran finished with 12 hits in the game, with cleanup hitter Kaden Hargrove going 4-for-4 with two RBI and two runs scored. The top four batters in the Oran lineup scored nine of its runs.
Oligschlaeger will get the start for St. Elizabeth, Heckemeyer said.
"We've got to keep the top of their lineup off the bases as much as possible," Heckemeyer said.
Hargrove was the winning pitcher, working the final five innings in relief of starter Ty Johnson. Johnson allowed three runs on two hits. Hargrove gave up just three hits the rest of the way, striking out five.
Leeton (15-8) and Green City (12-4) are scheduled to play in the third-place game at 11 a.m. today.