LEADWOOD – St. Pius baseball players were ready to erupt in excitement when Kaleb Schweigert sent a booming fly beyond the left-field fence as the second batter of the game.
The drive was eventually ruled foul. Not only did a potential 2-0 lead elude the Lancers by mere inches, but opposing pitcher Dakota Dowd was also granted an enormous reprieve.
Dowd frustrated the fourth-ranked team in the state poll for the rest of the afternoon, and helped West County reach the championship round of the Class 3, District 3 tournament.
Tyler Price and Peyton Nipper each finished 2-for-3, and the second-seeded Bulldogs used a complete game and 11 strikeouts from Dowd to prevail 4-0 on Tuesday.
West County (19-6) will seek its third consecutive district title on Wednesday against Herculaneum, which stunned top seed Jefferson 2-1 in the first semifinal game.
Dustin Burch greeted Dowd with a long double to the fence in center, but was ultimately stranded after Dowd ranged into foul territory to catch a pop out by Schweigert.
Dowd went on to retire nine straight batters, and pitched a dazzling three-hitter. He worked around two runners with no outs in the sixth inning following an error and single.
The Bulldogs grabbed a 1-0 lead when Hayden Roney scored on a delayed double steal with Nipper after both players singled against St. Pius starter Elijah Dale.
A pair of wild pitchers factored into a two-run rally during the third. Luke Gaia singled in Zack Francis, and Ty Simily made it 3-0 with a sacrifice fly.
West County missed a chance to score with the bases loaded during a controversial fourth inning. First baseman Jeremy Isenman was ejected for arguing a Nipper single that was called fair along the line.
Dale escaped danger when Francis line out sharply, but the Bulldogs scratched across an insurance tally in the sixth.
Kaiden Kaiser-Barton chopped an RBI fielder’s choice following singles by Dake McRaven, Cody Ruble and Price.
Dowd quickly gashed through the bottom of the St. Pius order in the seventh, picking up his last two strikeouts of the game.