DU QUOIN — Despite falling in an early three-run hole, the Benton baseball team stormed back to earn a 6-3 win over Waltonville/Sesser-Valier Thursday at the Du Quoin Class 2A regional.
Tyler Winchester smashed a 3-run homer to give the Spartans the lead against Benton hurler Zach Avery in the first inning.
The Rangers took over for the rest of the game. Avery and Tyler Butler launched home runs for Benton in the bottom of the third inning.
“You’ve got to give them some credit because they came out and put some good swings on Zach early,” said Benton coach Brett Blondi. “Zach battled there in the second and third and gave us a chance to give the ball to Mac (Ian McMahon). We were fortunate to make it a different game.”
Benton sliced its deficit to 3-2 in the third inning and took a 6-3 lead in the fourth. The Rangers stayed patient and took two walks before McMahon and Gehrig Wynn delivered the run-scoring hits.
“We started to feel a little bit better about things,” Blondi said. “I’m not sure if the kids did, but I definitely did. That was huge to get those runs. It was 3-2, and we felt like if we keep them there, our offense can do a little bit of work.”
The fourth inning was the big one for Benton. The Rangers plated four runs on three hits. Wynn’s two-run double made it a 6-3 ball game.
“The two home runs were huge and gave us a chance to get things going a little bit,” Blondi said. “We are just happy to get an opportunity to play on Saturday.”
McMahon shut down the Spartans for three-plus innings. He earned the win and helped his squad advance to the regional finale.
“I don’t want the season to end,” Blondi said. “Du Quoin is really good, and they beat us twice. They’ve got some really good players and a couple of the better athletes in Southern Illinois. We are going to have to play well to win.”
Benton improved to 23-11 on the season, and Waltonville/Sesser-Valier finished at 10-11. The Rangers lost by one and two runs to Du Quoin earlier this season.
The regional championship matchup takes place at 10 a.m. Saturday.