O’FALLON, Mo. – Daniel Bergtholdt stamped a resounding impression on an imposing stage with 15 strikeouts last year in the Class 2 state baseball tournament.
Perhaps the only thing that prevented him from posting an even higher total in his final high school start on Wednesday was the potent performance of the Valle Catholic offense.
The Warriors generated 13 hits overall, including six for extra bases, and flattened West Platte 11-1 in a Class 2 state semifinal game at T.R. Hughes Stadium.
Connor Basler, Andrew Basler and Koltyn Schilly each were 3-for-4 at the plate as Valle Catholic (29-5) moved to within one step of a championship repeat.
New Bloomfield routed Norwood 15-2 in the other semifinal, and will face the Warriors in Thursday’s title clash at 1:30 p.m. The Wildcats are coached by Central graduate Justin Forsythe.
A pair of first-inning runs provided ample support for Bergtholdt (7-2), who puzzled the Blue Jays with 14 strikeouts and allowed only three base runners through a complete game 1-hitter.
“Getting into the groove of throwing strikes where I want them to go,” the future Southeast Missouri State lefty said in describing his key to the win. “I feel like I’ve done a great job here at Valle Catholic, and I hope we can finish it off tomorrow.”
West Platte (19-6) rode a scalding streak into the final four, winning 13 of its last 14 games. Five of the most recent seven victories occurred in the form of shutouts.
But the reigning champs were locked in from the beginning against right-hander McKauley Stephenson (8-2), who entered the contest with a minuscule 0.55 ERA.
Connor Basler singled sharply to begin the bottom of the first. Andrew Basler burned the left fielder on a double, and Bergtholdt’s single made it 2-0 just three batters into the action.
“There’s just something about our kids when they know for a while what they’re going to see,” Valle Catholic head coach Nathan Gegg said. “They are able to step up their game. They were prepared and focused. I can’t really explain it, because we have struggled more at the plate this season.”
West Platte countered in the third after Lucas Horseman drew a leadoff walk. He stole second and third, and came home when a throw from Valle catcher Cole Wood ricocheted into foul territory.
But the Warriors continued to apply pressure with their bats. Wood smacked a 2-out, 2-run double to right-center in response, and a throwing error established a 5-1 advantage.
Connor Basler opened the Valle fourth with a single, and another error spurred a 2-run frame. Schilly punctuated that rally with an RBI double.
“We just focused on taking it right back up the middle,” Connor Basler said. “We knew (Stephenson) was going to throw hard and the ball was going to be straight.”
Bergtholdt overpowered three batters in the fourth and fifth frames to eclipse 12 total strikeouts. Valle enforced the 10-run rule to end the game after he notched two more in the sixth.
His bid for a no-hitter was spoiled by a slow roller that covered about 40 feet. No. 9 batter Ben Haili was officially awarded a single leading off the sixth inning after being struck by an incoming throw after Bergtholdt fielded the ball near the third-base chalk.
“After the fourth inning I thought to myself, ‘Maybe I can get as many strikeouts this game, but let’s see if I can throw a no-hitter,’” Bergtholdt admitted. “That fell short. It was kind of a stupid play on my part, but the kid put the ball in play and he hustled.”
Wood caught Haili stealing moments later with the margin at 7-1. The Warriors then tacked on four runs in the home half to seal the outcome.
Connor Basler bunted for a single with one out before notching his second stolen base. Andrew Basler and Bergtholdt followed with back-to-back RBI triples off Stephenson.
Schilly ripped his second double of the game down the left-field line, making it 10-1, and represented the final run when Chris Loida drew a bases-loaded walk from reliever Clay Lambrecht.
Loida was inserted into the starting lineup after right fielder Nick Oberle tweaked his back in practice. The Valle Catholic outfield has already been without an injured Garrett Jaegers all spring.
Andrew Basler, who scored four runs, is scheduled to start another championship game on the mound after lifting Valle Catholic to its second all-time state crown last June.
He stretched at first base to save a wild throw and retire Lambrecht as the game’s initial batter.