WOLF LAKE — Owen Gross was brilliant on the mound Saturday against the Cobden Appleknockers, as he threw a no-hitter to lead the Steeleville Warriors to its third-straight Class 1A Regional Championship at Shawnee. On a day where the wind was blowing in from center field, Gross took full advantage of the elements on the mound and let his defense make the plays behind him.
“I felt good in warmups and I was fired up for a regional championship,” said Gross. “I’ve got a great catcher behind the plate and a great coaching staff that called a good game. I shake my head yes to whatever they put down.”
Cobden’s only run came in the fifth inning after a Brayden Clark ground ball got past Steeleville third baseman Jordan Wilson to score Bayden Ditterline. The play went for an E5 and, more importantly, an unearned hit on the stat line of Gross. Gross shook off the run and responded by getting Ryan Barr to ground into an inning-ending 4-6-3 double play.
“I knew I had the no-hitter going but you don’t say it and you don’t talk about it,” said Gross. “You just go out and do your thing and hit the zone.”
Gross struck out eight batters on his way to the complete game shutout. The no-hitter came as a bit of a surprise to Steeleville coach John Sutton, who made sure to congratulate his pitcher after the game.
“I mean, I guess I should have realized it was a no-hitter because I’m sitting there writing down everything that they do,” said Sutton. “I’m focused on the next out, I’m not worried about what’s happened. I just knew that there was a run scored, so I wasn’t really worried about the no-hitter or anything else … I worry about that when it’s over.”
A pitcher can’t complete a no-hitter without a great defensive performance behind him, and Gross got just that. Barr got what looked like Cobden’s first hit of the game in the second inning when he lined a ball into right field. Right fielder Zach Mevert fielded the ball and delivered a strike to his brother Bradley Mevert at first base to get Barr just in time.
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Gross got another huge play out of his defense in the seventh when Landon Britt led off the inning with a screaming line drive to third baseman Jordan Wilson, who flashed his glove with a great catch to record the first out. Gross got Josh Burgess to strike out swinging for the third out, and then celebration broke out on the diamond in Shawnee.
“Three-straight regionals is great and I’m happy for the kids,” said Sutton. “They are a good group of kids, they’ve been fun to coach, and have had good attitudes all year. I told them just the other day … it was the day before the first game of the regional and we had probably a two-and-a-half-hour practice. We were having fun and they couldn’t believe practice was over. I think that if you can be at that point this late in the season things are going good.”
Steeleville recorded the first run of the game in the third inning, and then tacked on three more in the fifth inning. Dylan Hill capped off the fifth with a two-run single to score Jacob Sutton and Gross.
Sutton led Steeleville with two hits in two at-bats. The Warriors tore up the base paths with six stolen bases in the game. Sutton and Zach Mevert led the way with two apiece.
Chandler West took the loss for Cobden. He went five innings, allowing four runs on four hits and striking out seven.
Steeleville advances to the Goreville Sectional and will take on the winner of the Gallatin County Regional on Wednesday.