It has been a postseason of rematches for the Blair Oaks baseball team.
First up were the California Pintos in the district semifinals, then it was the Fatima Comets in the district championship.
Now the Falcons will face the Boonville Pirates for the second time this season today in the Class 4 sectionals at Boonville. First pitch is scheduled for 5 p.m.
Blair Oaks coach Mike DeMilia is expecting to see a much-improved Boonville team since their April 21 meeting in Wardsville, a 6-2 win for the Falcons. Since then, the Pirates have won 12 of their last 13 games, including nine in a row.
"I've talked to their coach a couple times, and I know he wasn't liking the way they were playing early in the year," DeMilia said. "They've really hit their stride and are playing a lot better than they were."
Boonville (16-5) won the District 7 championship last Wednesday with a 3-0 victory against Wright City in Ashland. In the past nine games, the Pirates have only allowed more than four runs on one occasion and have scored 10 or more runs six times in that span.
"Going in, you figured Southern Boone was the favorite (in that district), but you knew Boonville was playing well and Hallsville is a really good team," DeMilia said. " Coming into that district, most coaches knew that was not a gimme for Southern Boone.
"A lot of people probably thought we were the favorite going into our district, but with Fatima and California, we were in the same boat. We didn't have anything locked up."
Blair Oaks (25-5) defeated Fatima 6-4 in eight innings last Thursday in California to win the District 8 championship. With that win, the Falcons surpassed the school's single-season win record of 24 set during the 1998 season.
"There is depth in our program," DeMilia said. "We have a really strong senior class, but we follow it up with a lot of quality juniors and sophomores that have really done a job for us. To win that many games, you have to have pitching depth, you have to have depth in your lineup. We just have a lot of really good baseball players."
DeMilia is anticipating Boonville will pitch Jamesian McKee in today's game. McKee threw three innings in the regular-season meeting against Blair Oaks, allowing two runs on three hits with three walks and five strikeouts.
"We did beat him, but he did punch out quite a few guys and we didn't hit him a lot," DeMilia said. "We caught a few breaks."
Blair Oaks will pitch sophomore left-hander Wil Libbert, the Tri-County Conference player of the year. Libbert is 6-1 with 59 strikeouts in 45 innings, winning in each of his last four starts. He pitched six shutout innings last Wednesday in the Falcons' 5-0 win against California.
"He really stepped up in the Southern Boone game and pitched a one-hitter, and in his last three starts, he's only given up one run," DeMilia said. "He's done really well, he's been dominant.
"There's no doubt that, when he's on the mound, we feel like we can beat anybody."
Blair Oaks has been riding a hot streak like Boonville, as the third-ranked Falcons have won 14 of their last 16 games. The Blair Oaks offense is averaging eight runs per game this season.
"The great thing about our lineup is we don't rely on one or two guys," DeMilia said. "We've got a couple guys hitting over .400, but most of our guys are between .320 and .360. We're just pretty consistent up and down the order. There are no easy outs."
Today's game is scheduled to be played at Twillman Field in Harley Park. However, if it rains, the turf field located at Boonville High School could be used as a backup plan.
"We've never made the trip there, we were supposed to go there last year," DeMilia said. "I've heard a lot of great things about (Harley Park), it's a historic park, I know the people of Boonville really love playing there and love watching games there."
The winner of today's sectional game will face either Macon (16-4) or St. Charles West (17-5) in the quarterfinal round Thursday.