COLLINSVILLE • With a .412 average, seven homers and 33 RBIs this spring, Cody Spanberger has helped send many an opposing pitcher to an early exit.
So after going hitless with a pair of strikeouts in the Class 3A regional semifinals Friday, it figured that the Granite City slugger might be frustrated by his lack of production against rival Collinsville.
Not Spanberger. Not in the least. Not when it's his turn to take the ball.
"When everybody chips in, no one really cares who comes through at the plate," Spanberger said. "I was 0-for-four today with two strikeouts. My job today was to go out and pitch."
And pitch Spanberger did, holding top-seeded Collinsville to just five hits and striking out seven. His outing combined with timely hitting from his teammates helped the Warriors to a 5-3 victory and berth in the regional finals on Monday at 11 a.m.
Granite City (12-22) will take on the winner of Saturday's other semifinal contest between Edwardsville (25-9) and Alton (22-10).
Despite Granite City's poor record this season, coach John Moad has maintained that the squad is just as good as any in the area.
"We know when Cody is on the mound, we have a chance to beat anybody," said Moad of Spanberger, a Southeast Missouri State recruit who came into the game with a mark of 4-5, a team-best 2.80 ERA and 65 strikeouts. "We've been preaching all along to these kids that we haven't faced a team that is better than us. ... I think we needed this fresh start in the playoffs."
Granite City's bats appeared to be in mid-season form. The visiting Warriors plated two runs in the first inning off Kahoks starter Sean Boehnke on a walk to Tyler Lignoul followed by two-out hits from senior Kaleb Depew and freshman catcher Chad Spanberger.
The Warriors added to that in the second on a mammoth, one-out home run to left by sophomore Brian Nemsky. That shot chased Boehnke, who was replaced on the hill by Paul Suess, who had started the game as the designated hitter.
"I really liked our approach today," Moad said. "When we got up 3-0 we didn't get too high. When they had that big second inning where they had baserunners all over the place, we didn't get too low."
Collinsville (19-14) got two runs back in that inning with only one hit. Boehnke, who was shifted to left field, was hit by a pitch and Jordan Vandyke followed with a single. After Keith Henderson walked to load the bases with no one out, Austin Hails hit a grounder to shortstop Lignoul, who threw wildy to second, allowing two runs to score.
With Chris Mathes at the dish, Spanberger uncorked a wild pitch to the backstop. But the ball bounded perfectly back to catcher Chad Spanberger, who shoveled it to his pitcher, who tagged out Henderson at the plate. Though Mathes ended up walking, Spanberger got leadoff hitter Conner Judge to fly out to center and Suess to ground out to second.
Moad said the key was getting out of the second inning without losing the lead. Spanberger allowed just one hit -- a double by Boehnke -- in the next four innings. Spanberger walked the leadoff man in the sixth -- one of three walks and a hit batter on the day -- but he set the next three hitters down in order, fanning the final two.
By then the Warriors had added to their lead in the top of the fourth. Consecutive singles from Jake Daily and Dustin Young and an infield hit from Nemsky loaded the bases, and Dylan Sykes' single to left made it 5-2.
The Kahoks loaded the bases in the seventh on a pair of singles and a hit batter. A run did come home on a forceout, but with their big bats coming up, the Kahoks couldn't get the key hit they needed. With two out and two on and cleanup hitter Luke Stewart at the plate, Spanberger's pitch bounded away from catcher Chad Spanberger. Tyler Thomas, running for Suess, tried to advance to third but was gunned down to end the game.
"The kid was tough, and we just didn't put the ball in play enough," Collinsville coach Pete Trapp said. "We struck out more than we normally do, and they made a lot of plays. And they put the ball in play against us."
Spanberger said the Warriors, who were beaten twice by the Kahoks during the regular season, appeared to be the looser team.
"You could kind of tell that they were almost shutting down when we got to five," Spanberger said. "We had nothing to lose. Nobody expected us to win coming in."