Eagles soar into sectional final

Columbia’s Jackson Holmes delivers a pitch during Friday’s win at home over Gibault in a rivalry Class 2A regional clash. See more photos from the game at republictimes.mycapture.com.

The Columbia High School baseball team is playing its best at precisely the right time. 

The Eagles, winners of 11 of their past 13 games, will battle for a sectional championship at home on Friday. Columbia won 13-2 in five innings at Teutopolis on Wednesday in a Class 2A sectional semifinal and will now host Freeburg for a sectional title try at 4 p.m. Friday.

Matt Howard went 3-for-3 with three RBIs and Jonah James went 3-for-4 with two RBIs for Columbia (20-10). Jackson Holmes went the distance on the mound. 

Columbia lost 13-3 on April 30 and 3-2 on May 17 to Freeburg (32-3) in two Cahokia Conference games during the regular season.

The Eagles posted a 10-1 victory at Cahokia Conference foe Breese Central on Monday to win a Class 2A regional title.

Adam Wibbenmeyer, a 6-foot-1 senior righthander, allowed just one run on two hits in a complete game pitching effort.

“I am really proud of our guys,” Columbia head coach Neal O’Donnell said after the regional title victory. “I am happy for them and their families. They did a great job preparing for the game and executed to get the job done. Adam was locked in and gave us a great performance on the mound.”

The Eagles plated three runs in the second inning, the key hit being a two-run double by senior shortstop James.

A seven-run fifth inning put the game away for Columbia. Tate Schilling, another senior, hit a three-run double.

Columbia advanced to the regional final by downing rival Gibault at home last Friday, 9-0.

Another senior righthander, Holmes, threw a three-hit shutout with nine strikeouts. Sam Bonaldi, Drew Graves and Howard collected two hits apiece to pace Columbia’s offense.

Howard leads the team in hitting at .469 with 26 RBIs, followed by Bonaldi at .405 with 29 runs.

“We’ve had our ups and downs this season, but our guys have continued to get better,” O’Donnell said. “If we continue to play the way we’re capable of, we’re going to be a tough team to play against.”

Gibault (13-12) opened regional play last Wednesday with a 12-0 blasting of winless Wood River at home. 

Senior righty Ryan Bollinger threw a five-inning no-hitter with seven strikeouts and Daniel Darin went 3-for-3 with a grand slam.

Jude Green added three hits and two RBIs.

Eli Garcia led the Hawks in hitting this season at .373 with 20 RBIs, followed by Darin at .365 with 26 runs. Darin, a sophomore southpaw, also went 4-4 on the mound with a 1.40 ERA.

Valmeyer (10-11) lost 5-0 to Steeleville on Monday in a Class 1A regional final. The Pirates were held to just one hit in the final game. It came off the bat of senior Henry Weber.

On Friday, Valmeyer opened regional play with a 10-6 win at New Athens. Jacob Rowold went 2-for-2 with a home run and three RBIs.

Rowold, who will play at Southwestern Illinois College next season, led the Pirates in hitting at .455 with 22 RBIs, 24 runs and eight triples. He was also 4-4 with a 2.80 ERA on the mound.

Waterloo (6-23) ended its dismal season with a 3-0 loss to Marion at Southern Illinois Carbondale on Friday in a Class 3A regional tilt.

Logan Hopfinger went the distance on the mound for the Bulldogs and collected two of the team’s four hits on the day.

He went 2-4 on the mound this season with a 2.21 ERA.

Evan Davis hit .306 to lead Waterloo’s offense.

Dupo (3-12) opened Class 1A regional play with a 15-4 win over Bunker Hill last Wednesday. Noah Chism went 4-for-4 with a homer and four RBIs. Camden Biggs went 3-for-4 with four runs.

On Friday, the Tigers ended their season with an 11-3 loss at Okawville. Biggs, Chism and Kyle Stansch collected two hits each.

Biggs led Dupo in hitting this season at .373 with 16 runs, followed by Nate Ticer at .300 with 12 runs.

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