Baseball: Hampshire's bats go cold in semifinal loss
Hampshire starting pitcher Logan Nespor threw well enough to win Friday's Class 4A state semifinal in Joliet.
Edwardsville starter Grant Schaefer was a tad sharper and the defense behind him was pinpoint throughout the Tigers' 2-0 win at DuPage Medical Group Field.
Nespor pitched all 6 innings for Hampshire (22-15) in the program's first state appearance. The 6-foot-2, 195-pound right-hander held Edwardsville (36-5) to 3 hits and 3 walks and struck out three in an 80-pitch performance on Illinois high school baseball's biggest stage.
"It was mesmerizing," the recent Hampshire graduate said. "That's what I dreamed of all of high school, big spots. I feel like I left it all on the field today."
It was the first postseason loss for Nespor, the winning pitcher in playoff games against Harlem, Hononegah and Cary-Grove.
"He pitched his heart out," Hampshire coach Frank Simoncelli said. "That's what he's been doing all year. He's been a hot pitcher in the playoffs and a guy that we can count on."
Schaefer (8-1) likewise allowed only 3 hits. He walked a pair and struck out three in 7 innings.
Schaefer's teammates made several good defensive plays, none bigger than the gem by right fielder Blake Burris in the seventh.
Gavin Kriegel, one of Hampshire's fastest runners, stepped to the plate with Matt Jachec on first base via a leadoff walk. Kriegel smashed an 0-2 Shaefer offering to right field for a hit. Burris charged the ball, fielded it cleanly on one hop and fired to first baseman Drake Westcott to get the out.
"It's just unfortunate that it was on turf," Kriegel said. "I feel if it was on grass, grass would have been able to slow that one down and I would have beaten the throw."
Burris' big play undercut Hampshire's budding rally.
"The kid just threw a rocket to first," Simoncelli said. "It was definitely a game saver. I think if that doesn't happen, we come back there."
Edwardsville advances to face St. Charles North (29-10) in the title game on Saturday at approximately 5 p.m. The Tigers were state-runner up in 2017.
"I came down here freshman year and we ended up getting second," Westcott said. "We're back and this time we're not going to get second."
The Tigers scored single runs in each of the first two innings then rode Schaefer to the win. Nespor beaned leadoff batter Hayden Moore and he eventually scored on a sacrifice fly by Westcott, a power-hitting junior committed to Louisville.
Edwardsville made it 2-0 in the second inning. Josh Ohl singled, stole second and scored on a basehit by Dalton Wallace.
Hampshire will face St. Rita for third place at 3 p.m.
"We've got one more opportunity to go play together," Simoncelli said. "It's not exactly how we drew it up, but nobody in the history of Hampshire has gotten to this point and ever gotten third. We're going to go eat, get a good night's sleep, wake up, get to the cages and get pumped up again for third."