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story.lead_photo.caption Reid Dudenhoeffer of Blair Oaks swings at a pitch Friday during a Class 4 quarterfinal game against St. Charles West at the Falcon Athletic Complex. Photo by Ken Barnes / News Tribune.

WARDSVILLE — The Blair Oaks Falcons acted like they had been there before.

When the Falcon baseball team won two years ago in the Class 3 state quarterfinals, a 10-0 decision against Lawson, there was a dogpile with Lane Libbert at the bottom following his run-rule walk-off hit, and coach Mike DeMilia was drenched with a cooler of water.

On Friday, when Blair Oaks blanked the St. Charles West Warriors 9-0 in the Class 4 state quarterfinals at the Falcon Athletic Complex, there wasn't much of a celebration. The Falcons did their usual handshake line and DeMilia stayed dry.

"Our kids have been in this spot before, in this sport and in other sports," DeMilia said. "That is a huge advantage, we were completely relaxed."

Blair Oaks (27-5), the No. 3 team in Class 4, advances to the state semifinals and will play the eighth-ranked Hollister Tigers (25-5) at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at U.S. Baseball Park in Ozark. Hollister knocked off top-ranked Springfield Catholic 6-5 in the quarterfinals Friday.

The Falcons were the guests on the scoreboard, but they greeted visiting St. Charles West with a pair of runs in the top of the first inning.

Lane Libbert drew a seven-pitch walk to start the game, Hayden Salmons was hit by a pitch and both runners advanced a base on a groundout. Wil Libbert then drove them both home with an opposite-field double to the left-center field gap.

"Wil doesn't try to do too much with pitches," DeMilia said. "He just tries to go with the pitch. Most people are throwing lefties middle-away, and he's just going to go with it."

The two runs snapped a streak of 17 2/3 scoreless innings by St. Charles West starting pitcher Josh Newell.

"This is why we play a great schedule," DeMilia said. "That's why we go play C.B.C. and Rock Bridge, we've seen great pitchers all year, and we've competed against all of them. We haven't always beaten them, but there's really no pitcher we see that we're absolutely going to be in awe of."

Blair Oaks added seven more runs after that, but Gavin Wekenborg had all the help he needed on the pitcher's mound.

The senior left-hander struck out a season-high 12 batters — including four in the sixth inning — in just his third start of the season. It was also his second two-hit shutout of the spring, improving his record to 7-0, but it was the first time he has gone a full seven innings on the mound.

"I finally pitched a complete game in a big postseason game," Wekenborg said.

The Blair Oaks defense turned double plays to end the first and third innings, then Wekenborg proceeded to strike out eight of the next 12 batters he faced.

"He got off to a little bit of a slow start the first couple of innings, he wasn't real sharp," DeMilia said. "But then he got going, and from the third to the sixth, his breaking ball was really good."

Wekenborg said his slider was working well against the Warriors.

"Once I find that pitch, it's pretty hard for anybody to hit it," he said. "As long as I got it, I'm good."

Blair Oaks scored four runs in the fourth inning to stretch its lead to 6-0. Ian Nolph and Dylan Hair each had RBI singles in the inning for the Falcons.

"I'm proud of the guys for getting runs, they told me they would," Wekenborg said.

Wekenborg helped himself out offensively, too, hitting an RBI single and scoring on a double-steal in the fourth.

"Every once in a while, a blind squirrel finds a nut," Wekenborg said with a laugh.

Michael Quirk relieved Newell in the fourth, and Levi Haney greeted him with a two-out RBI double to right-center field. Lane Libbert scored on a wild pitch in the sixth and Haney scored on Hair's groundout in the seventh for the Falcons' final run.

Grant Middendorf pitched the sixth for St. Charles West, while Jacob Blassingame — who ran in three events earlier in the day for the Warriors' track and field team in the Class 4 state championships at Adkins Stadium — retired the three batters he faced to finish the seventh.

"Our weakness has usually been against relievers, and today we actually did a good job against them," DeMilia said. "We're geared up for the starter, and once he came out, I was really concerned, but we did a good job against all of them."

Wekenborg ran into a little trouble in the seventh, loading the bases with two outs as he approached his pitch-count limit of 105. That prompted a visit from Blair Oaks pitching coach Jacob Voss.

"We just joked around and had a good time," Wekenborg said, "just talking about getting that last out."

It came two pitches later, as Hunter Suess hit a ground ball to shortstop Lane Libbert, who stepped on second base for the force out to end the game and secure the Falcons' second straight shutout.

Rico Raymond singled in the second and Darius Decarolis singled in the sixth, the only hits for St. Charles West (18-6). Wekenborg walked three and hit three batters.

Wil Libbert and Nolph each had a single and a double for the Falcons, while Josh Isaacs added a pair of singles in the team's 10-hit performance.

This will be the fourth Final Four appearance for Blair Oaks, which won state titles in 2006, '07 and '19.

"It's really nice for these guys to be able to finish this out, playing in the Final Four," DeMilia said. "Obviously, we're not satisfied with just being there. We want to win two more games."

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