DU QUOIN — Bryzn Witcher threw a gem, and Charley Mercier supplied a good chunk of the offense Wednesday as Du Quoin defeated Chester, 7-0, in the semifinals of the Class 2A regional.
Witcher fired a complete game and allowed five hits in the victory. The Yellow Jackets were not able to string enough hits together against the Du Quoin hurler.
“He is really solid, and he had arm surgery the last couple years,” said Du Quoin coach Kyle Geiger. “He has worked hard to bounce back from that. He always finds a way to throw strikes and get the job done. That’s all we ask of pitchers. You don’t have to throw hard, but if you can keep the ball down and have good command, you will get outs. That’s what he does. He threw the ball very well.”
After already driving in a pair of runs, Charley Mercier belted a towering 2-run bomb over the high fence in right field, which extended the Du Quoin advantage to 6-0 in the bottom of the fifth inning.
That was Mercier’s only hit of the ball game, but he drove in runs on ground ball outs in the first and fourth innings as well.
“We’ve had a lot of games where we needed that big hit to extend the lead,” Geiger said. “Charley came up with it today, and that was huge. It let us relax a little bit more.”
Chester (7-15) had a runner in scoring position in three different innings and had a player thrown out at the plate to end the top of the third. The Yellow Jackets also committed three errors, which led to two runs.
“The breaks kind of went their way today, and we did not make plays that we should make,” said Chester coach Jim Kowzan. “That’s the way it goes sometimes, and you have to credit Du Quoin. When they needed big hits, they got those big hits.”
Chester was unable to solve Witcher, who was never in serious trouble during this contest.
“We told our kids they needed to stay back on Witcher and hit it to the right side, and that’s not what we did,” Kowzan said. “Give credit to Witcher. He’s not overpowering, but if you don’t stay back, he will beat you. And that’s what he did today.”
The Indians scored in each of the first three innings against Chester’s starting pitcher, Curtis Meyer. Tevin Lee knocked a run-scoring single up the middle in the opening frame, and Ashton Smith did the same for a 2-0 lead.
“It just settles you down getting those early runs, especially in a game like this,” Geiger said. “We had great approaches at the plate, and we saw a lot of pitches. We tried to extend the at-bats as much we could.”
Du Quoin (17-11) will play in the regional championship game at 10 a.m. Saturday against the winner of Thursday’s game between Benton and Waltonville/Sesser-Valier.