SECTIONAL ACTION: Southwestern’s Matthew Schwartz is tagged out at third base by North Decatur’s Austin Brown (above) during the sectional semifinals at Austin on Friday. Rebel starting pitcher Tristan Embs (below) wipes his face after a tough stretch. Southwestern rallied from 3-0 down to lead 5-3 but ended up falling 11-5. These and other photos can be viewed at www.madisoncourier.com/photos. (Staff photos by David Campbell)
SECTIONAL ACTION: Southwestern’s Matthew Schwartz is tagged out at third base by North Decatur’s Austin Brown (above) during the sectional semifinals at Austin on Friday. Rebel starting pitcher Tristan Embs (below) wipes his face after a tough stretch. Southwestern rallied from 3-0 down to lead 5-3 but ended up falling 11-5. These and other photos can be viewed at www.madisoncourier.com/photos. (Staff photos by David Campbell)
AUSTIN - North Decatur scored eight runs over the final three innings to pull away for an 11-5 win over Southwestern in the Class 2A Baseball Sectional semifinals Friday at Austin High School.

Southwestern had taken a 5-3 lead with a five-run third inning and appeared to be in control heading into the fifth inning. But too many Rebel mistakes, coupled with several big hits by North Decatur, powered the Chargers to the win.

"We gave them 10 free baserunners, we had three errors at crucial times and you can't give people that many extra outs," Southwestern coach Derik Hutton said. "And we just never responded offensively. Even our big inning was because they gave it to us. We had a few hits spread out in there but a lot of it was walks. We can't expect to be successful if that's what we rely on offensively."

North Decatur (7-13) now advances to the championship game that will be played on Tuesday. The other side of the bracket has been delayed by rain in recent days. Host Austin beat South Ripley 3-2 in nine innings on Friday and will face Milan in the other semifinal on Monday.

Southwestern (6-20) got off to a rough start. Pitcher Tristan Embs sandwiched two hit batters around a single to load the bases in the first and North Decatur got its first run on a wild pitch.

The Chargers added two more runs in the second on two walks and an error for a 3-0 lead.

Southwestern came alive in the third inning. The Rebels had been stymied by North Decatur starter Alex Crowe through the first two innings but the second time through the lineup yielded different results.

Gage Hartman got the rally started with a base-hit and Embs followed with a walk. Adam Jackson was then hit by a pitch to load the bases with one out.

Tryston Wheatley scored one run with a single. Robbie Stoner then dropped a single into shallow right field to score two runs and tie the game 3-3.

A walk to Matthew Schwartz re-loaded the bases and Jacob Adcock brought in another two runs with a single to stake the Rebels to a 5-3 lead.

The lead held up for one inning before North Decatur went out front for good in the fifth with a two-out rally. Jake Stephenson doubled in one run and Trevor Fasbinder walked to load the bases and chase Embs from the mound.

Reliever Adam Jackson struggled, forcing in the next two runs with a hit batter and a walk to give the Chargers a 6-5 lead before Southwestern escaped the inning when catcher Stoner picked off Fasbinder at third base

But the damage was done. North Decatur did not trail again.

The Chargers got a two-run single by Stephenson to highlight a three-run sixth and added two more runs in the seventh.

Southwestern, meanwhile, never threatened against Crowe's replacement, Luke Perdue. Wheatley had singled and stole second in the fourth but was stranded and Logan Sprong reached on an error and went to second on a wild pitch but got no further.

The Rebels got a runner on in the sixth but had him picked off and a double-play in the bottom of the seventh ended a rally before it could get started.

"Our pitching today was behind every hitter. It seemed like we were behind every single hitter 2-0, 2-1 and we were trying to battle back," Hutton said. "You can't do that and expect to be successful. You put way too much pressure on the pitcher and in the end, you put too much pressure on the offense to catch up."

Embs gave up six runs - five earned - on five hits in four and one-third innings to take the loss. The senior struck out three but walked four and hit two batters.

Jackson gave up a run without a hit in two-thirds of an inning and Jayde Ary struck out three and walked one while allowing four runs on three hits in two innings of relief.

Wheatley, one of five freshmen who played in the game for Southwestern, went 3-for-4 with a run and an RBI at the plate.

Perdue got the win with four and one-third innings in relief. The big right-hander gave up just two hits while striking out seven and walking one. He was also 3-for-4 with a double, a run and an RBI at the plate.

Dustin Westerfield was 2-for-3 with two runs scored and Stephenson was 2-for-4 with a double and three RBIs.

The season was a trying one at times for Southwestern, but with such a young roster, Hutton feels like the future is bright.

"This is our lowest win total in the last three years but I feel the best after the season with this group," Hutton said. "We have so many young guys that we were thrown into the fire. Some guys we would start as many as six freshmen. These kids got an experience they could never have hoped for on a JV team. In the long run, it's going to be a good thing."

Southwestern graduates six seniors, Michael Baker-Conover, Trevor Calvert, Embs, Tyler Johnson, Alex Marion and Schwartz.

"Tristan Embs has been a starter for four years. He's been there from the beginning and I know this isn't how he wanted it to end, but he's meant a lot to our program," Hutton said. "Matt Schwartz has been there through all of it. He's gotten a lot of playing time and has had some big at-bats. Both of those guys struggled this year but they are both high-character guys.

"Michael Baker-Conover started a lot of games and we're going to miss all of those guys. Trevor Calvert, Alex Marion, Tyler Johnson, they might not show up in the boxscore but they mean a lot to the program too."