RICHMOND – Richmond-Burton had genuine concerns facing Marengo ace Aiden Smith in the semifinals of the Class 3A Richmond-Burton Regional.
The junior righty beat the Rockets as a freshman on the varsity team. R-B didn't see him last season, but Smith got the win against them again this season in a Kishwaukee River Conference game.
“He is a horse up there [on the mound],” R-B coach Mike Giese said. “He gave everything he could, but we had good at-bats today.”
R-B got 10 hits. The No. 8-seeded Rockets scored early, then added on late and needed every one in their 5-4 victory over the No. 11 Indians on Thursday. R-B (20-15) faces No. 3 Carmel in the regional championship game at 10 a.m. Saturday.
Leadoff man Clayton Jarocki singled and scored in each of his first two at-bats. His third time up, he drove in a run with a ground ball.
“We were really selective with our pitches,” Jarocki said. “We knew [Smith] was going to come with fastballs right away. We really zoned in on the strike zone and jumped on fastballs.”
R-B senior Connor Donohoe went five innings, allowing two runs, and was 3 for 3 at the plate. Luke Uhwat came in for the final two innings.
Donohoe stranded six runners on base in the first four innings, but Smith and Justin Oine hit back-to-back homers in the fifth, cutting R-B’s lead to 3-2. Donohoe came back in the bottom of the sixth for his third hit, which came in the middle of a two-run rally.
“It felt good,” Donohoe said. “I’ve improved my hitting since early in the year, and it’s been fun to hit the ball. We jumped on early fastballs instead of waiting for a curveball or changeup. [Smith] is a great pitcher, and I give him a lot of credit.”
The back-to-back homers enlivened Marengo’s dugout.
“When you’re going from being shut out, and two swings later you’re back in the game, that does a lot,” Indians coach Josh Maas said. “Being down three in the last inning, against one of the best pitchers in the area and getting the tying run to the plate … I couldn’t be more proud of these guys.”
Danny Schenk walked, Derek Peters singled and Smith and Oine each had RBI groundouts. Uhwat then got Josh Streu on a grounder to shortstop to end the game.
“We kept fighting,” Smith said. “We knew that no matter how many punches they threw, we were going to keep fighting. We weren’t ready for it to end. We were going to fight with everything we had. We just came up a little short. It kind of [stinks].”
Although Marengo committed six errors, all of R-B's runs were earned. The Rockets overcame four errors of their own.
"That’s kind of what our team is," Giese said. "We don’t play very good defense at times. We knew we were going to have to hit and throw stirkes. Our defense breaks down once in a while. Connor didn’t have his best stuff today, but he worked hard and worked through it."
STAR OF THE GAME
Connor Donohoe, Richmond-Burton, sr., P
Donohoe pitched five innings, allowing two earned runs, striking out five and not issuing a walk. He also was 3 for 3 with a double, and his courtesy runner score twice.
30: Pitches thrown by R-B’s Luke Uhwat, which means by IHSA rules he can throw 90 on Saturday.
AND ANOTHER THING ...
Marengo coach Josh Maas is resigning his position after eight seasons as the Indians’ boss. He said his children are of the age where they are doing more activities, so he is stepping away.
Richmond-Burton 5, Marengo 4
Marengo 000 020 2 – 4 7 6
Richmond-Burton 101 102 x – 5 10 4
WP: Connor Donohoe (5IP, 5H, 2R, 2ER, 0BB, 5K). LP: Aiden Smith (6IP, 10H, 5R, 5ER, 1BB, 2K).
Top hitters–Marengo: Smith 2-4 (HR, R, 2RBIs), Justin Oine 1-3 (HR, 2RBIs), Derek Peters 1-3 (R). RIchmond-Burton: Clayton Jarocki 2-4 (RBI, 2R), Luke Uhwat 1-3 (2B, RBI), Tyler Anderson 1-3 (RBI), Donohoe 3-3 (2B), Chase Duncan 2-3 (RBI).