Grant Bentley saved the best of a good performance for last.
The freshman pitcher struck out the last five Madison Plains batters he faced Thursday night as the host Golden Knights won the Division III sectional championship by a 5-1 margin.
“He got stronger as the game went on,” said head coach Buck Workman. “Apparently he needed 75 pitches or so to warm up. Sometimes he comes out of the gate with his stuff and other times not.”
Bentley fanned 11 Golden Warriors and didn’t allow a walk, while hitting one batter.
The fifth-seeded Knights face Columbus Academy at 5 p.m. Monday in the district opener. Academy beat Centerburg 4-1.
“We got out hit 7 to 5. What we did is take advantage of some mistakes they made and got a few walks and put runners on base,” Workman said.
The hosts took a 1-0 lead in the first inning when Andrew Armose hit a sacrifice fly to plate Max Lower, who had walked, advanced on an infield error and a bunt by Bentley.
Madison Plains knotted the game in the third when Ryan Ernst hit an RBI single to left, one of his three hits.
But Northmor responded quickly in its half of the inning.
PJ Lower reached on an error. After Bentley walked, Armrose doubled to left center field to score Lower. Garrett Corwin then flew out to center to bring home Bentley.
The third run was courtesy of a Preston Harbolt RBI single.
Madison Plains got a one-out single in the fifth inning and a bloop single over first by Ernst, giving the visitors runners on first and second.
Centerfielder PJ Lower made a perfect throw to the plate to nail the base runner and end the threat.
“They could have gotten a run in there. PJ came up and threw that thing on a fly, off balance, a missile right to Gavin (Whited). It was beautiful,” Workman said.
“All three of our outfielders have been doing that all year. We got good arms out there and cerebral kids who know what they’re doing.”
Ernst struck out two and walked a pair in taking the loss.
“Academy is always better than their record indicates because they play in a big league against some D-II teams. Any time you’re still playing we’re happy.”