Just one month ago the Columbia High School baseball team was regarded as one of the best teams in the region, earning a No. 1 seed in their very own hosted regional.
15 games and 9 losses later, the Eagles’ regional curse began to cast a big shadow over CHS coming into Wednesday’s Class 3A Columbia Regional Semifinal game.
“That’s five years in a row that we’ve been a one seed,” CHS baseball coach Keith Jany said, adding that they don’t pay too much attention to the seeds. “At the time we were playing well and then we went into a tough stretch after the Monroe County tournament. We were just waiting to turn the corner and never really did.”
Wednesday proved the curse was not broken and the Eagles couldn’t get out of the regionals for the fifth year in a row at the arm of junior Mascoutah ace Ryan Netemeyer. The Southern Illinois University Carbondale commit allowed Columbia just two runs to the Indian’s seven, gave up one walk, six hits and struck out seven.
“We knew he was good coming in. He’s just a good pitcher,” Jany said. “We hit some balls hard off of him, it’s just that it wasn’t our day. Some of theirs got through and some of ours didn’t.”
After the second inning, Columbia was already taking the field looking a bit down and literally down on the scoreboard 3-1.
In the third inning with junior Josh Fleming on the mound the Eagles made their second error of the day, putting a Mascoutah runner on third. The Indian’s then knocked in another run, improving their lead to 4-2. CHS was unable to score again that inning and came into the fourth with a seemingly nervous Fleming at the plate.
“He’s pitched in games like this outside of Columbia, in the summer and stuff like that,” Jany said of Fleming’s nerves. “He had a hard time getting the ball down, he was up in the zone a little bit.”
After Flemming allowed four runs, nine hits and had two walks the CHS skipper brought in sophomore Brendan Wilhelm, which seemed to lift the spirits of his team a bit.Columbia baseball coach Keith Jany makes the change at the mound in Wednesday’s regional semifinal game with sophomore righty Brendan Wilhelm. (Teryn Schaefer photo)
“Brendan came in and did a good job of throwing strikes. He had a few balls that they hit. He kept us in the game and gave us a chance to win it.”
Immediately after, catcher Brock Johns made an impressive catch when the Indians fouled off a fast and low one behind the plate. Next, Camren Shewfelt dove to knock down a hard grounder to third and threw a runner out at second. Mascoutah went on to pop out in right center and things began to look like they were on the up-and-up for Columbia.
The Eagles began to hit more balls in play and by the sixth inning senior slugger Brendan DePoy came up to the plate ready to avenge his final season. The .577 hitter knocked off a double, scoring Reed Greatting to inch closer to the Indians, 5-2.Eagles slugger Brendan DePoy led the team at the plate this year and the entire St. Louis area with a batting average of .577.
“He is such a good hitter. We are definitely going to miss him and his numbers next year,” Jany said of the Rhodes College commit. “We were at the all-conference meeting the other night and when I nominated him a couple of the coaches in the conference asked if they could buy him a graduation gift because they are kind of glad to see him go.”
But Columbia allowed two more Mascoutah runs in the final inning and were not able to capitalize when they loaded the bases in their seventh inning rally. The Eagles fell, 7-2, ending their season at 22-13.
“The guys were ready to play. I don’t think we beat ourselves a whole lot,” Jany said. “It was just that we were facing a very good pitcher and a team that put the bat on the balls and made the plays.
“They were just a better team today,” the coach said, adding that the team had a great 22-win season.