The rout was on in the third inning.
The St. Francis Borgia Regional baseball Knights (23-7) scored seven runs in the top of the third on their way to a 13-1 victory against Westminster Christian Academy (29-7) Friday in the Class 4 State Championship game at CarShield Field in O’Fallon.
Borgia added one run in the top of the fifth and five runs in the sixth. Westminster scored its lone run in the bottom of the sixth inning.
The win clinched the first state championship in the history of Borgia’s baseball program. The Knights had previously been to the championship game twice in 1957 and 1976 and the state semifinals one other time in 1976.
Westminster had been the No. 3 team in the final Missouri High School Baseball Coaches Association poll on May 10. Helias Catholic, Borgia’s semifinal opponent, had been ranked No. 2.
“If you’re going to win, you might as well beat the best,” Borgia Head Coach Rob Struckhoff said. “We thought we went through two of the best teams in the state and that’s what makes it special. Nothing was given to us.”
Bryce Mayer was the winning pitcher for Borgia, giving the Knights their second complete-game effort on the mound in as many days.
Mayer followed up on Joe Schmidt’s no-hitter against Helias Catholic in the semifinals by limiting Westminster to one run on two hits and three walks over six innings in the title game. Mayer recorded eight strikeouts and needed just 87 pitches to go the distance.
“Joe pitched awesome yesterday, so I knew I had to follow it up with something good,” Mayer said. “... They were a really good fastball-hitting team and so the plan was to keep them off balance. Adam (Molitor) did a good job back there calling pitches for me and I just went with what he said.”
Borgia stacked up 11 hits in the contest, but the real difference maker was the Knights’ ability to execute defensively where Westminster could not. Borgia committed zero errors to Westminster’s four.
Three of the Westminster errors proved extra costly as they worsened Borgia’s third-inning rally. Borgia had four hits in the inning, but the errors turned the frame into a seven-run romp.
“That third inning was crazy,” Schmidt said. “We had a few clutch hits in there, a couple of errors made by them and it all adds up to a big inning. By the third run in that inning, I knew we had the game going. From there, we just kind of took off and rolle with it.”
Spencer Hunter, Brandon Stahlman, Schmidt and Mayer led the Borgia offense with two hits apiece.
Louie Eckelkamp, Tyler Glosemeyer and Adam Molitor had one hit each.
Every Borgia player in the lineup scored a run in the contest.
“The team had their moment,” Struckhoff said. “(Joe and Bryce) pitched great, but to throw 13 runs up on Westminster, that’s outstanding. We’re an outstanding lineup. We’re as good as anybody.”
Schmidt, Hunter and Eckelkamp scored twice each. Jack Czeschin, Mayer, Glosemeyer, Stahlman, Molitor and Foster Lynchard all scored one run, as did courtesy runner Tyler Stieffermann.
Eckelkamp drove in three runs. Stahlman, Schmidt and Glosemeyer each collected two RBIs. Mayer knocked in one.
The Borgia third inning started innocently enough when Stahlman reached on a walk and Molitor blooped a single into right field.
Lynchard then came to the plate and attempted a sacrifice bunt, but Westminster pitcher Zachary Brasier rushed the throw to first and it went wide, allowing Stahlman to score and Molitor to scoot around to third.
Czeschin then drew a walk to load the bases for Mayer, whose chopper to third could not be handled and brought in the second run of the inning while keeping the sacks jammed.
The next batter, Schmidt, drove a grounder to the shortstop that again eluded the Westminster defense and was scored an infield single, bringing in Lynchard for the third run.
The first out came on Hunter’s ground ball with Czeschin being forced out at the plate.
Eckelkamp broke the game open with a double off the right field scoreboard, plating both Schmidt and Mayer with Hunter stopping at third.
“We knew it was just a matter of time until we got hot,” Eckelkamp said. “We were talking about it in the dugout. We’d seen all his pitches and we felt good about what he was throwing. We just knew it was only a matter of time before we started putting balls in play. Once we started, we hit some hard balls, they made some mistakes, and things just started to go our way. It all unfolded from there.”
Brasier managed to strike out Glosemeyer to put the end of the inning in sight, but Westminster committed the second error on Stahlman’s ground ball as the Knights batted around. Hunter scored, Eckelkamp went to third and Stahlman to second as the throw went wide of first base and to the wall in foul territory.
The next batter, Molitor, kept the pressure on Westminster with another ground ball on the infield and the Wildcats turned in their third throwing error of the inning, allowing Eckelkamp to score the seventh and final run of the frame.
Brasier got Lynchard looking to stop the bleeding for the Wildcats.
The score remained 7-0 until the Knights put together a two-out rally in the fifth when Glosemeyer singled and Stahlman doubled down the left field line to bring him all the way around.
In the Borgia sixth, Czeschin was the first batter to reach with a one-out walk. Mayer then singled and was replaced on the bases by Stieffermann. Schmidt’s single to right field scored Czeschin to make it 9-0 and Hunter was intentionally walked to load the bases.
Next up, Eckelkamp was hit by a pitch to force in a run from third.
Glosemeyer drove a 1-0 pitch with the bases loaded deep into right center field and Westminster right fielder Blaise Matheny made a leaping catch over the top of oncoming teammate Jack Smith.
Matheny was unable to keep his footing on the landing and as a result, everybody tagged up and advanced and Hunter was able to score from second on the sacrifice fly.
“Spencer was probably surprised I was sending him,” Struckhoff said. “But if he’s going to show everybody he caught it, I’m going to send you and keep the pressure coming. That was it — we just kept it coming. We weren’t going to stop.”
Stahlman’s single then plated Eckelkamp for the final Borgia run.
With a 13-0 lead, the Knights were happy to trade a runner advancing or a run for outs in the bottom of the sixth. Mayer had a one-hit shutout through the first five innings, but sought to just get Westminster to put the ball in play in the final inning.
After a leadoff walk and a single, Mayer induced a fly ball to center field for the first out. Another walk loaded the bases, but Mayer got both of the next two batters to ground out and seal the win.