Of the ways Immaculate Conception could have beaten Westminster Christian for the first baseball sectional title
in the school's history, winning via the home run was the least likely.
The Knights had launched just 2 long balls all year, in part due to the dimensions of their cavernous home field
However, No. 3 hitter Danny Muisenga nailed a Brandon Siewert fastball for a 2-run home run in the first inning,
and cleanup hitter Carlos Rodriguez clocked a cut fastball that didn't cut for a 3-run home run in the fifth to give IC a
The blasts were the first home runs of the year for each player and the third and fourth of the season overall
for the Knights (14-18), who have won five straight playoff games.
The 5 runs were more than enough offense for sophomore starting pitcher Matt McMahon, who pitched IC to a 5-1
victory by notching his second win of the season at Warriors Field over Westminster Christian (25-10).
McMahon relied on his changeup to stymie the slumping Warriors, who managed only 4 hits Saturday and 14 hits
in their last three games combined.
"I knew they'd seen me, so I knew they'd have a beat on my curveball, which is my good pitch," said McMahon
(3-4). "But the changeup was working well, so I kind of stayed with that and kept it down. I let them hit it and my defense
backed me up really well."
The loss denied a second straight sectional title for Westminster, which reached the Class A Elite Eight last
year with mostly the same lineup. Moreover, the loss denied the Warriors a chance to reach the Class 1A finals, their stated
goal since losing in the quarterfinals last season.
"It's disappointing, obviously," Westminster coach Jeff Moeller said. "Our expectations were a lot higher. I
still think we're a pretty darn good team. But you know how it is; It's not always the best team that wins. … I'm not
taking anything away from (IC). They're solid and they did what they needed to do, but I don't think we had our best game,
that's for sure."
Siewert, one of two juniors in the senior-heavy Westminster lineup, got out of trouble in the third inning,
stranding two Knights. Rodriguez didn't let him off the hook in the fifth, though.
In a 1-2 count with two outs and runners at first and second, Rodriguez jumped on a pitch that was left up in
the zone and sent it sailing into the trees beyond the left-field fence.
"That second home run, I left the cutter up and then the other one was just a fastball inside," Siewert said
of the two pitches that changed the game. "I realize, obviously, I'm not overpowering with speed and I need to hit my spots,
and I didn't do that on two pitches. That was crucial."
The Warriors scored an unearned run against McMahon in the seventh and had runners at first and second. However,
Casey Shcuring hit a groundball to third base. Muisenga fielded it and stepped on the bag to end the game.
The once-formidable Westminster Christian offense, which was averaging 10 runs a game as recently as three weeks
ago, managed just 5 runs combined in two sectional games.
"The last two weeks of the season everybody on the team practically hit a slump," said Ben Palmer, who pitched
the final two innings and struck the last four high school hitters he faced. "Everybody was hot at the beginning and middle
and then we kind of just petered off toward the end.
"I don't know exactly what it was. Our bats just slowed down a little, I think, and we just couldn't hit the
ball very well."