ZEIGLER — Gabriel Motsinger and the Zeigler-Royalton-Christopher Tornadoes played their best game of the season Thursday to short-game Du Quoin, 10-0, and advance to the championship game of the Zeigler-Royalton-Christopher 2A baseball regional.
“Gabriel was outstanding,” said ZRC coach Page Kirkpatrick. “He didn’t walk anybody and that’s a big deal for him. He got a lead and didn’t let down. He’s a junior and that’s best I’ve seen him in three years. Offensively top to bottom this might have been the most well executed game we’ve had.”
ZRC (17-13) returns to the title game for the first time since winning the regional title in 2016 and only for the fourth time since 2002 to face the upstart Pinckneyville Panthers (6-19) Saturday at noon.
“Pinckneyville has a lot of momentum going and let’s hope they run out,” Kirkpatrick said.
Motsinger (5-1) tossed a five-inning, three-hit shutout striking out seven. The left-hander pitched out of a two-out second and third jam in the first inning on a called third strike to Slade West and the allowed only one other base runner the rest of the game retiring 12 of the last 13 batters giving up just a two-out base hit to Brian Winters in the third inning.
“I have full confidence in the guys behind me,” Motsinger said. “I was throwing fastball and curveball and that was it.”
Landen Bate led the Tornado 12-hit attack with three hits in four at-bats with two RBIs and two doubles. Dalton Humphrey went 2-for-3 with three RBIs and a double and Cole Freeman went 2-for-2 with a RBI. Anthony Rolla also went 2-for-3 with a double.
“I’m really confident in my team,” Bate said. “We’re swinging and pitching it well right now. It’s a great experience playing the regional and hosting it here.”
Motsinger and Owen Bradley (4-4) were locked in a pitching duel for the first two innings, but the Tornadoes loaded the bases with no outs in the third on a leadoff single by Bate followed by back-to-back walks to Freeman and Mason Goins to break the game open.
Humphrey drove in the game-winning run on a bouncer through the hole at short to leave the bases loaded. One out later, Nick McKinney drove in a run on a fielder’s choice and a third run scored on a wild pitch.
“They had it today and we didn’t,” said Du Quoin coach Kyle Geiger. “This game is a crazy game. They came out and hit. When a team comes out like that and spreads the ball around it’s tough to defend. That’s just part of the game.”
The Tornadoes exploded for five runs in the fourth, starting with a one-out walk to Rolla and a double by Bate. Freeman followed with a base hit to left to up the lead to 4-0 and end Bradley’s stint on the mound.
West took over and Goins greeted him with a squeeze bunt down the third base line that Brian Winters couldn’t pick up allowing Bate to score. Humphrey then lined a 3-2 pitch past Winters into the left field corner for a double to drive in two more runs and Bryce Pratt continued with a bouncer to right to up the lead to 8-0.
McKinney drew a walk to open the fifth and Rolla doubled to put runners at second and third to bring Bate to the plate. The sophomore lined a 2-1 pitch into the left field corner to clear bases on a walk-off double.
“I have confidence in myself so I just went up to the plate knowing I had to get a hit to win the game,” Bate said. “West threw me a fastball and in the fourth Bradley also threw me a fastball.”