The O’Fallon Hoots (21-19) entered played on Friday in a deadlock with the Springfield Lucky Horseshoes for the second playoff spot in the Prairie Land Division. The teams will match up in O’Fallon on Saturday in a pivotal second-half matchup. Before the big Saturday evening matchup, O’Fallon took care of business at home against another division rival, the Alton River Dragons (21-19).
With the River Dragons already having clinched a home playoff game, the hometown Hoots saw an opportunity to strike on home turf. Turning the ball over to Noah Niznik (Southeast Missouri State), he would complete five innings, strikeout two, and allow just two runs.
The Niznik quality outing allowed for the Hoots to jump on top early. His SEMO teammate Ryan Malzahn (Southeast Missouri State) delivered the first big blow with a leadoff solo shot in the second inning off Alton starter Adam Stilts (Lewis & Clark CC). The second-inning hits kept coming with consecutive knocks from Blane Besse (Missouri Baptist), Jack Dunn (Mineral Area CC), and Cade Hohl (Purdue), along with an RBI groundout from Gavin Bennett (University of Illinois) gave O’Fallon a 3-0 lead.
After Alton grabbed a pair of runs in the fourth frame, O’Fallon answered in the fifth. Jacob Hager (Arkansas State) scored on a smart baserunning play from O’Fallon. Cole Robinson (Missouri Southern) attempted to swipe second with runners on the corners. Even with Robinson being thrown out easily, Hager sprinted home when Alton fired on down to second, scoring easily to give the Hoots a valuable insurance run.
The insurance runs continued to come in, with a strong seventh inning. Cole Robinson again was involved as he reached via a hit-by-pitch, getting to third on a Connor Milton (University of Illinois) double, and scoring on an Alton wild pitch.
With the O’Fallon bullpen, Logan Boughton (Hannibal-Lagrange), Jonah Callaghan (Southeast Missouri State), and Logan Mantz (UMSL) doing their job, O’Fallon held on for a 5-2 victory at CarShield Field. The pivotal Saturday night matchup with Springfield will start at 6:35 pm. Tickets are available at ofallonhoots.com and at the CarShield Field box office.