BLOOMINGTON – When Lance Kiesewetter is on the mound for the Henry-Senachwine baseball team, coach Max Kirbach said the Mallards’ “confidence builds.”
“We look to get three or four [runs], and most games he’s pitching, we’re pretty safe,” Kirbach said.
That was the formula Thursday as the Mallards scored one run in the top of the first inning and added two unearned runs in the fourth. Kiesewetter did the rest, throwing a one–hitter to lead Henry to a 3-0 victory over Delavan in a Class 1A Illinois Wesleyan University Sectional semifinal.
“It feels good,” Kiesewetter said. “We lost last year against the same team [in a sectional semifinal]. It’s just good to overcome an obstacle.”
The Mallards (21-6) advance to the championship at 11 a.m. Saturday against Heyworth (14-20).
“It’s huge [to be in a sectional final],” Kirbach said. “These guys have been working hard, especially the seniors who have been with the program for four years.”
“These guys have been working hard, especially the seniors who have been with the program for four years.”— Max Kirbach, Henry-Senachwine baseball
Henry beat Heyworth 8-1 on March 23 in Henry. The Hornets advanced to the sectional championship with a 4-3 win over Annawan-Wethersfield on Wednesday.
“I know they’re going to be better than they were when we played them last time, but we just have to go out and compete,” Kiesewetter said.
On Thursday, Henry started strong, as Mason Guarnieri drew a four-pitch walk to start the game.
Preston Rowe followed with a bunt single before Kiesewetter hit into a fielder’s choice to move Guarnieri to third. Cleanup hitter Colton Williams hit a sacrifice fly to left field to give the Mallards a 1-0 lead before Kieswetter stepped on the mound.
Kiesewetter struck out the first batter he faced before issuing a walk. He ended the inning by inducing a 6-4-3 double play. Kieswetter did not allow a hit until Delavan leadoff hitter Alex Seaton singled up the middle with one out in the sixth.
Braden Arrenholz then hit a ground ball to shortstop Carson Rowe, who stepped on second and threw to first. The throw got away from first baseman Mason Johnson, but he recovered and the Mallards got Arrenholz out in a rundown to end the inning.
The only other Panthers baserunners to reach against Kieswetter came in the third when Wyatt Pierson reached on a two-out error, and Seaton walked before a ground ball ended the inning.
“I was able to spot my pitches and keep them off-balance,” Kieswetter said. “[The defense] was solid. They kept everything in front and didn’t allow them to get extra bases.”
Kiesewetter finished with 10 strikeouts in his second complete game in a row.
In the regional final and sectional semifinal, Kieswetter has allowed only one earned run on eight hits with 24 strikeouts and three walks in 14 innings.
“He located,” Kirbach said. “I’m not going to say [the strike zone] was super tight, but he didn’t get as much on outside pitches, so he located where he needed to and he had multiple pitches working today, not just fastballs. He has his splitter working and his curveball.”
While Kieswetter shut down the Panthers, Henry didn’t have much going offensively either, finishing with just three hits – two via bunt.
Still, the Mallards managed to score two insurance runs in the fourth when Williams drew a walk to lead off and Johnson reached on an error. After a bunt foul with two strikes and a strikeout, Zach Barnes reached on an error, allowing both runs to score.
“We’d like to get the bats going a little more, but those are two solid pitchers we faced,” Kirbach said. “You have to expect a low-scoring game.
“You have to find ways to win. If we’re not going to get a lot of hits, we have to play a little small ball. It worked today.”