FESTUS, Mo. — Behind dominant work from its ace hurler and exceptional defense in support, the Valle Catholic baseball team beat one of the state’s premier pitchers in a classic duel Monday afternoon.
Junior Tyler Litterest threw his second consecutive two-hitter in a complete game, and the Warriors used three straight singles in the fifth inning to edge Alex Winkelman and Crystal City 1-0 in a Class 2 state sectional game.
Valle Catholic (21-4) earned a return berth in the quarterfinal round, and will host Twin Rivers (17-11) at Alumni Field on Wednesday. Neither squad committed an error in a contest that spanned one hour and 25 minutes.
Litterest retired every leadoff batter and notched six strikeouts with four walks allowed. First baseman Thomas Hermann handled foul pops near the fence on back-to-back pitches to begin a quick bottom of the fifth.
Shortstop Alec Greminger then raced into shallow center field to make a remarkable diving catch with his back to home plate, robbing senior catcher Nick Pruneau of a leadoff hit in the sixth.
“He got jammed, and hit it up the middle,” Greminger said. “I figured, why not give it a shot for (the catch), and just laid out for it.”
Litterest allowed a one-out walk to Cole Cherry ahead of a sacrifice bunt in the seventh, but retired No. 9 batter Colby McCreary on a ground ball to third base as Winkelman was left waiting on deck.
“I was just thinking this was going to happen. This was our time,” Litterest said. “I’m amazed by the people behind me every day. We work hard and it shows. We make plays that most teams don’t even think about making.”
The decisive rally was sparked by Evan Lauer’s innocent flare that landed inside the right-field line. He hustled from first to third when junior catcher Linc Stoll lined a solid single into left-center.
Sophomore right fielder Nolan Wood bounced a 2-0 pitch through the left side of the infield to produce the game’s lone run. His charging throw earlier in the action cut down a batter at first base.
Winkelman (8-2), who is bound for Southeast Missouri State next season, ended his outing by retiring the next eight batters in a row. He fanned seven and walked none while also picking off a runner.
“Those hits were key to the victory, and really had us pumped up,” Stoll said. “He’s a great pitcher and always throws strikes. We were able to get some hits when it mattered most.”
The Warriors prepared to face Winkelman by practicing Sunday against Ste. Genevieve graduate Jake Donze, who pitched professionally last summer for the Gateway Grizzlies of the independent Frontier League.
Greminger finished 2-for-3 overall with leadoff singles in the first and fourth innings. Valle batters repeatedly offered at the first strike they saw against a hurler known for his impeccable command.
It was Winkelman who crushed Valle fans in a district final two years ago, striking out 12 in a 1-0 shutout, and eventually led the Hornets to a state championship as a sophomore.
“We knew that he liked to get ahead early,” Greminger said of Winkelman. “If he gets that first strike on you, it’s hard to come back against him. He’s very good at hitting spots, and his off-speed stuff is excellent.”
Crystal City (22-4) threatened in the third inning. Winkelman doubled to right with two outs and Pruneau drew an ensuing walk, but Litterest struck out Tyler McClanahan and keep the game scoreless.
“My fastball was my main pitch today. I didn’t really have much else,” said Litterest, who improved his record to 7-2. “I was trying to throw my curve, and every once in a while, I could get it to do what I wanted it to.”
Senior right-hander Alex Rollhaus will carry an 8-0 record to the mound on Wednesday. He has yielded only one run in his last two starts.
Valle Catholic 000 010 0 – 1 5 0
Crystal City 000 000 0 – 0 2 0
WP – Tyler Litterest 7ip 0r 0er 2h 6k 4bb.
LP – Alex Winkelman 6ip 1r 1er 5h 7k 0bb.
Valle Catholic – Alec Greminger 2-3, Nolan Wood 1-2, Linc Stoll 1-3, Evan Lauer 1-3.
Crystal City – Alex Winkelman 1-3, Tyler McClanahan 1-3.