Jake Verschoore provided the thunder and Patrick Connor provided the lightning. Verschoore cracked a two-run homer in the fifth and Connor laced a run-scoring single in the sixth, and reliever Drew Strohm put the finishing touch on as Fort Zumwalt West erased a two-run deficit to beat Vianney 4-3 in a Class 5 semifinal Friday afternoon at CarShield Field in O’Fallon, Mo.
Fort Zumwalt West (24-14) making its first state tournament appearance in program history, will play the winner of Jefferson City-Lee’s Summit for the Class 5 Championship Saturday at 1:30 p.m. Vianney will play in the third place game Saturday at 11 a.m.
“These past two weeks we’ve played flawless baseball and if we do make a mistake, we build off it and we always get through adversity and I’m proud of our team,” Vershoore said.
The Jaguars, who were the home team for the semifinal jumped in front in the bottom of the third on Verschoore’s sacrifice fly to left which brought home Connor for a 1-0 lead.
Vianney (31-7) got the bats cracking on Zumwalt West starter Michael Cessna in the the top of the fifth.
Jack Stanfield walked to lead off and Adam Aldridge reached on an error. Nicolaus Haden moved runners to sedcond and third with a sacrifice bunt and then Thomas Kraus ripped a two-run triple to center field pushing the Golden Griffins ahead 2-1.
Andrew Keck capped the three-run rally with an RBI-double to left.
In the bottom of the fifth, Zumwalt West had a big answer as Connor walked to lead off the inning. Vianney starter Luke Mann retired the next two Jaguar hitters but Verschoore made sure the inning would not be empty as he hammered a two-run homer over the right field fence to tie the game at 3-3.
“He (Mann) just threw me a fastball to my letters and I tried to do something with it and it and hit it,” Vershoore said.”It didn’t seem to have as much velocity on it as his other pitches but I wasn’t complaining. I was never so happy in my life to see it go out.”
The comeback was something that Zumwalt West coach Eric Goff has grown used to seeing after watching his club beat Vianney for the second time in three hard-fought games season.
“It was 3-3 in the top of the sixth and how much fun was that,” Gough said. “It was great baseball with pitchers pitching their butts off, batters grinding out at bats, and you’ve just got to give all the credit in the world to these kids who battled their butts off.”
Vianney lost their last good chance to score in the sixth when Strohm came on in relief of Cessna and forced a two-out groundout from Thomas Kraus to strand Stanfield at second base after he singled with one out.
Nick Rocco singled in the bottom of the sixth and courtesy runner Clarke Davenport ran for Roco and moved to second on a grounder to short.
Connor came up with two out and delivered the game-winner with a run-scoring single to rightcenter putting the Jaguars up to stay 4-3.
“We had a runner at second in the bottom of the sixth and I just wanted to put the ball in play,” Connor said. “We are on a roll right now stringing hits together, making plays and I’m just so proud of everybody.”
Strohm retired the side in order and pure bedlam broke out as the Zumwalt West dugout and fans celebrated program’s first championship game berth.
“It just showsthat all the years of hard work work with Coach Gough, he’s building us toward winning baseball,” Verschoore said.