Kayden Althoff’s hot bat helped spark a 5-run fourth inning and push along an insurance run in the sixth, in helping Teutopolis defeat Greenville, 8-5, for their Class 2A regional championship game Monday afternoon.
“I really look for where the pitcher’s release point is so I can pick up the ball faster,” said Althoff, who went 3-for-4, scoring two runs and driving in another. “I just think to myself when I want to swing and say ‘Now’ and let the hands and hips do the work.”
I think he’s attacking the ball well,” Teutopolis head coach Justin Fleener said. “His swing is on plane. He’s searching for that ball out over the plate. He’s done that all year. He pulled the ball, he hit in the middle, and had the triple to right-center the other day. Look at what that does to guys.”
Trailing by four runs in the sixth inning, Greenville’s Ryan Heath reached base as his sharply hit ball was bobbled by Teutopolis’ Evan Wermert, one of three errors the shortstop committed on the day. Tommy Baker, who was 3-for-3 and a double away from a cycle, smacked a single to Althoff, pushing Heath to second.
Heath advanced to third on a wild pitch by Shoes pitcher Evan Addis, while Ryan Jackson doubled to right field to score Heath and Baker and close the gap to two.
Teutopolis responded in the bottom of the inning after Sam Bushur bunted to move Derek Deters to second. Althoff then took a 1-1 pitch and pulled it down the left field line, scoring Deters, to increase the lead to 8-5.
“I stay balanced and keep my hips back,” Althoff said. “Wherever the ball is, you keep your balance. If it’s an outside pitch, you drive it the other way, and if it’s an inside pitch, I try to pull it down the third baseline.”
Fleener complimented Greenville’s team but felt the Shoes’ early performance was a key factor in the win.
“Greenville’s a solid program,” Teutopolis varsity head coach Justin Fleener said. “They didn’t quit down 7-0. I thought we came out and set the tone early. I thought Evan’s first inning was a tone-setter. Our first at-bat, even though we got two runs off of that, was good. We set the tone there.”
Not to be upstaged by his left fielder, Addis allowed five runs, just two earned, on four hits while striking out 11.
“Evan made some big pitches,” Fleener said. “Then when they got it back to 7-3, it was nice to go out the next inning and control them, and then the next.”
Greenville’s Landen Moss in the loss allowed seven runs on six hits in three innings, walking two and striking out three. Clayton Dannaman, in relief, allowed one run on four hits while striking out four.
Baker blasted a three-run home run to center field, scoring Chase Bellegante and Drew Potthast.
“ I wanted that extra insurance run,” Fleener said, referring to the sixth-inning run. “I thought Sam’s a good bunter, and Kayden’s been seeing the ball so well and had three hits again. Here’s an opportunity to get a run in there.”
“If I was up when Sam was, I’ve done the same thing,” Althoff said. “Get the guy to second. Hopefully, get a base hit and drive him in and get an insurance run.”
Fleener said while the team will take extra work to smooth out the infielding errors, they’re happy there’s baseball – even if it’s in June.
“Hey, there’s still some things we’re going to work on and get some kinks out and lined out and get ready for our next ball game,” he said. “We’re just happy to playing.”
Adding on, Althoff said that the team is ready for whatever lies ahead.
“I think going forward, our pitching has been well, and we’ve been hitting the ball well; I think we can go up against any team.”