BOONVILLE, Mo. — Lane Libbert set the tone with the first pitch the Blair Oaks Falcons saw during Tuesday's Class 4 sectional game against the Boonville Pirates.
Lane Libbert drove a pitch toward right field that carried and carried before finally landing just beyond the fence for a solo home run. As it turned out, that was all the run support Wil Libbert would need.
The Blair Oaks left-hander threw six shutout innings, striking out 12 and scattering four hits to lead the Falcons to a 6-0 win against Boonville at Twillman Field.
"When you get off to that kind of start, it puts a lot pressure on the other dugout and it relaxes your guys," Blair Oaks coach Mike DeMilia said.
For Lane Libbert, that was his third career home run in the state sectional round. He hit a pair of home runs in the Falcons' 15-3 win against Lamar in the 2019 sectionals.
On Tuesday, it was one pitch and a 1-0 lead for the Falcons.
"I always go up there looking for the first pitch," Lane Libbert said. "I want to hit the first one that's right down the pipe, and it was close enough, so I hit it."
However, he admitted he didn't think the blast would be a home run when it left his bat.
"No, I thought it was just going to be a good base hit down the line, and I was going to get an easy double," Lane Libbert said. "The right fielder was standing there, and it just went over."
Blair Oaks tacked on five more runs in the second inning, but those just turned out to be insurance runs for Wil Libbert.
For the second straight postseason start, Wil Libbert didn't allow a walk or a run for his seventh win of the season. Just like he did last week against California in districts, he reached his 95-pitch-count limit on the final batter he faced in the sixth inning Tuesday.
"He's allowed one earned run in his last four games," DeMilia said. "Everybody wants to talk about the strikeouts, but I think the biggest thing is no walks."
Wil Libbert just needed 10 pitches to get through the first inning and he retired 10 of the first 11 batters he faced. Saylor Marquez hit a one-out double in the fourth inning and advanced 90 feet on Max Eckerle's single, as Marquez was the only Boonville player to reach third base with Wil Libbert on the mound.
"My fastball was working the best," he said. "I was just throwing it like I do, and I was getting outs and swings and misses.
"I was little bit nervous going into the game, but after (the first inning), I was rolling."
Cade Schupp got a leadoff single for the Pirates in the sixth inning, but Wil Libbert struck out the next three batters to finish his night pitching, keeping the score at 6-0.
"That's probably the best way you can go out," Wil Libbert said.
In the bottom of the second, Josh Isaacs led off with a single to right field for Blair Oaks, then Gavin Wekenborg reached on an infield single and Dylan Hair was hit by a pitch to load the bases.
The first pitch to Lane Libbert got to the backstop, and Isaacs raced down the line to score on the wild pitch just ahead of the tag by Boonville pitcher Cody Garner, giving the Falcons a 2-0 lead.
"Josh isn't blessed with great speed, but for him to hustle in there and make a great slide and score, that was big," DeMilia said. "They get an out there, that changes the momentum."
Later in that at-bat, Lane Libbert slapped a single back up the middle that scored Wekenborg and Hair to make the score 4-0.
"A two-run single, that's a huge hit," DeMilia said. "Everyone will focus on the home run, but it was a two-strike single up the middle."
Two batters later, Reid Dudenhoeffer crushed a two-run homer to left-center field. That scored Lane Libbert and extended the Falcons' lead to 6-0.
"Reid's got good power, he's a really good hitter," DeMilia said. "At districts, he really didn't swing the bat great, but at practice yesterday he swung the bat better, and I felt confident in him."
Colby Caton relieved Garner in the third inning. He pitched four scoreless innings of relief for the Pirates, scattering five hits and striking out three.
"One of our weaknesses all year is hitting relievers," DeMilia said. "He came in and threw strikes, he mixed it up on us."
While the Falcons didn't score after the second inning, DeMilia was pleased with his team's overall approach at the plate, leading to 12 hits in six innings. All nine Blair Oaks starters had at least one hit.
"The one thing we did well is we hit with two strikes," DeMilia said. " Reid's home run was with two strikes, Gavin Wekenborg and Lane Libbert each had a hit with two strikes. That's huge, because a pitcher goes deep into a count, and we still get on base."
Lane Libbert went 3-for-4, adding another single in the fourth, while Wekenborg finished with a pair of singles.
Cade Stockman pitched the seventh for the Falcons, walking two and striking out two. He stranded runners at second and third base to preserve Blair Oaks' seventh shutout of the season.
Kayle Rice also had a double for Boonville, which ended its season with a 16-6 record.
Blair Oaks (26-5), ranked No. 3 in Class 4, will host St. Charles West (18-5) on Thursday in the state quarterfinals at the Falcon Athletic Complex. The Warriors defeated Macon 4-1 in Tuesday's sectional round.
A win would put the Falcons in their fourth Final Four in program history.
"We had a good turnout here, everbody made the trip, but it will be really nice to be on our home field in front of the home fans," DeMilia said.