HILLSBORO, Mo. — Summit seniors Kole Younger and Sean Barnett picked a good day to hit their first home runs of the season.
The Falcons brought out the long ball in romping to an 11-5 victory over Festus in a Class 5 quarterfinal game Saturday at Jefferson College.
Summit (17-14) will face Grain Valley (26-8) in a state semifinal at 11 a.m. on Friday at U.S. Ballpark Park.
The Summit program won the Class 4 state championship in 2012 in its only other final four excursion.
Younger, a catcher, drove in a career-high five runs with a two-run homer, a two-run single and a sacrifice fly. Barnett added a three-run homer.
"That's a kid that's playing with a lot of confidence behind the dish and hitting," Summit coach Jason Schneider said. "He's really heating up. He's elevated his hitting to a whole another level. Barney (Barnett) has been waiting a while for that big one. As he was coming around third, I told him he waited for a good time to get it."
Summit senior pitcher Matt Haley pitched into the fifth inning before being relieved. He struck out seven but walked six and hit a batter. He made a gem of a defensive play to keep Festus of the scoreboard in the third inning and keep the Falcons in control.
It was a case of missed opportunities for the Tigers (15-15). Festus stranded 13 runners. Three times, Festus left the bases loaded.
"We put runners on base," Festus coach Jeff Montgomery said. "We just couldn't get the big hit to get us going. They're a pretty formidable team for sure. "
Three Summit pitchers walked 10 batters and hit two while giving up only six hits.
"That's not indicative of what our pitchers have done all year," Schneider said. "The thing I'm most proud of is how they were able to battle out of the mistakes. That really showed the nature of what they can do on the mound. We definitely danced around danger today. That's something as we move forward we need to be more aggressive early and get ahead in the count."
However, the Tigers struck out 15 times.
"Their pitchers would bend a little bit but then go to a different level to get out of it," Montgomery said. "That's what good pitchers do. When you strand that many runners, it's going to bite you eventually."
The Falcons scored two runs in the first when senior Jack Meyer reached on an infield single and junior Cam Pye got on when third baseman Connor Hulsey mishandled a slow roller that got by him and then left fielder Wyatt Hulsey bobbled it allowing the runners to advance a base. Younger slapped a 1-2 pitch up the middle for two runs off losing pitcher Ian Brown.
"I was just wanting to drive in some runs there," Younger said. "I got a pitch I could hit."
Haley walked the bases loaded in third with one out. Sophomore catcher Tyler Bizzle hit the ball to the first-base side of the mound that Haley caught in his glove and flipped to Younger for a force out at home.
"Big heads-up play by Matt there," Younger said. "He knew exactly what he was doing."
Haley noted he had a little trouble getting the ball out of his pitching glove.
"My glove's not fully broken in yet so the ball kind of bounced out of my glove and I had to rush," Haley said. "During the rush, I flipped it and it went kind of high. I got scared but Younger came up and made the play."
Schneider liked what he saw.
"That was really nice. That was a hell of a play right there," Schneider said. "They were getting guys on base and just needed to get a big hit to get in the game."
If that play is not made by Haley, who knows what direction the game would have taken, Montgomery said.
Summit added four runs on three hits in the fourth. Junior Joey Marcinkiewicz led off with a walk. Senior Ethan Lindemann and junior Adrian Roberts followed with bunts. Brown made a wild throw to first on Roberts' bunt and a run scored. Barnett them crushed the first pitch he saw sending it over the left field fence for a 6-0 lead.
"I went up there swinging," Barnett said of the second homer of his career. "Our guys got a couple of bunts down and did the dirty work of getting on base. I just got a ball I could hit. I've hit a bunch of hits this season off the wall, but this is the first one over the wall. It couldn't have happened at a better time."
The Falcons added two runs in the fifth when Younger slammed a 2-0 pitch over the left field fence for his third career home run.
"I was just looking for a pitch that I could drive in some runs on," Younger said. "I ended up getting the barrel on it and sending it over the fence. I wanted to hit it in the gap, but I hit it out."
After Haley walked the first two batters in the fifth, senior Zach Dodd relieved.
"I just had too many walks today," Haley said. "That's not what I wanted to do. I should have just let the defense do its job and put the ball in the strike zone. But we survived and we advanced to the final four so it is what it is. I definitely want to have less walks next time I pitch."
A one-out single by Bizzle loaded the bases. Sophomore Jackson Gross drove in two runs with a single to right before Dodd struck out the next two hitters.
Summit added its final three runs in the sixth.
Festus scored a run in the sixth, but left the bases loaded in each inning. Meyer pitched the seventh for Summit and he gave up a run, but again the Tigers left the bases loaded.
"We had a good game today," Haley said. "When we have fun, we're hard to stop. If we have fun and play ball, I think we'll have a chance to finish the job."
Schneider was an assistant on the 2012 championship team. He is excited to head to southwest Missouri with his team.
"It's thrilling. It hasn't sunk in yet," Schneider said. "I told myself and the guys we're not going there just to participate. These guys are going there to play good baseball and have some fun."