BY RICH HULL O'FALLON WEEKLY SPORTS
Mother Nature had some say in this past week’s baseball schedule; some games cancelled while others got postponed. Thursday, however, was a perfect day to play ball.
The Panthers welcomed the Waterloo Bulldogs and a large crowd to Senior Night in what would be a battle of local heavyweights. O’Fallon, ranked number two in the state and the Bulldogs number 11.
Both teams sent their aces to the mound. SIU commit, Bradly Harrison took the mound for O’Fallon; while Tyler McAlister took the ball for the Bulldogs. It would be Harrison’s day as he shut down an impressive Waterloo lineup that included Jordan McFarland, who some consider to be a legitimate Major League draft pick. Harrison struck out 12 and gave up just two hits, shutting out the Bulldogs for the first time in 52 games, 4 – 0 and ending their 11-game winning streak. He improved his record to 11 – 0.
McAlister had his moments. He had his breaking ball working, at times having the Panther hitters leaning back to avoid getting hit, only to have it break across the plate. He recorded five strikeouts and only gave up one earned run. His record fell to 7-2.
The Panthers scored first in the second. A balk moved the runner to third and a long sac fly by Jordan Richardson drove in the first run. They would score again in the fourth on a controversial call. Joe Guithues was legging out a swinging bunt and collided with the Bulldog player covering the bag and jarred the ball loose. He was eventually called safe and the run allowed to score to dismay of the large contingency that made the trip north to see the game.
The Bulldogs’ coaching staff decided to load the bases with an intentional walk with one out in the bottom of the sixth, hoping for a double play ball to get them out of the inning. Harrison stepped to the plate and hit the ball that the Waterloo coaches were hoping to get, a slow ground ball; but a throwing error allowed two more runs to cross the plate for the Panthers.
The Panthers didn’t have a lot of time to enjoy the victory. They played again Friday in a make-up game against Belleville West, that was supposed to be played on Tuesday. O’Fallon saw their 21-game winning streak come to an end as the visitors beat them 5 – 4. The game was close after five innings 3-2 in favor of the Maroons. They added two more in the top of the sixth. The Panthers answered with two runs of their own in the bottom of the sixth but came up just short in the end.
O’Fallon got back to their winning ways as they beat Triad on Saturday 13 – 3. They jumped on the host Knights early, scoring 10 runs in the first three innings. They led 10 – 2 after three.
Brad Snyder pitched for the Panthers and kept Triad at bay. He went five innings allowing just the two runs – one in the first and the other in the second, on four hits. He struck out one and gave up two walks on his way to his third win of the season.
O’Fallon will take their 30 – 4 (12 – 2) record to Springfield on Monday for a late morning game against Sacred Heart Griffen Cyclones (27-4) before starting the IHSAA playoffs. O’Fallon is in the Alton Regional (4A) and will play on May 25th against the winner of the Granite City/Belleville West game.