HARRISBURG -- The pitchers duel between Eldorado's Max Kasiar and Benton's Zach Avery was everything fans were hoping for during Wednesday's IHSA Class 2A Regional semifinal at Harrisburg's Jay Thompson Field.
Holding a 2-1 lead through four innings, Benton, the No. 1 seed, couldn't seem to put Eldorado away.
And then the fifth inning happened.
The Rangers (27-6) put up seven runs, blowing the game open and walking out with an 11-3 win over Eldorado (7-18), putting themselves in Saturday's championship game.
Benton head coach Brett Blondi said he preached some plate discipline to his team going into that all-important fifth inning.
"I thought we had been kind of impatient up to that point," Blondi said. "We got out a couple of times on the bases trying to do too much and I thought offensively at the plate, if we had worked Kasiar better, we would have gotten some better pitches to hit. There were a couple of 2-0's that we got a little anxious on. So to me, the key that inning was being more patient and then taking what they gave us."
In the fifth, Gehrig Wynn led the inning off with a walk and that followed three Rangers, Derek Oxford, Bryden Picklesimer and Brett Bonenberger all getting hit by a Kasiar pitch. Wynn was forced in and that followed Hamilton Page's single to right center, scoring Oxford and Picklesimer.
Kasiar took the loss, falling to 0-8 on the season and departed after going 4 1/3. The senior right hander gave up seven runs (six earned) on four hits, while striking out two and walking three.
Joe Mayberry came on in relief and Benton kept pouring on the runs.
Parker Williams reached base via the walk and on the wild pitch, two more runs scored for Benton as Bonenberger and Page crossed home plate. Andrew Dunn, who pinch ran for Avery, who was issued a walk himself, scored the other run.
Avery picked up the win as he improved to 6-0 on the year. The tall and lanky right hander tossed a one-hitter for Benton, giving up the lone hit to Trey Vessel in the fourth inning as he went five innings, giving up one run and striking out four.
Page came on in relief, giving up two runs on three hits, while striking out two.
Eldorado head coach Brad Drust knew he had Benton right where he wanted them as his team trailed by one going into the bottom of the fifth.
"For the first four and half innings we played right there with them," Drust said. "We gave ourselves and chance and we knew anytime we have Max on the mound, we have a shot to win. He's a competitor, but I'm just proud of the way our guys came out today and competed. They never laid down, we got a couple of runs there late, but I think we proved we won't go down without a fight."
Benton plated one in the third inning when Oxford slapped a single over third base, scoring Wynn, who led the inning off with a double.
Eldorado answered in the top of the fourth when Vessel doubled to left center and then scored on Byrd's hit.
However, in the bottom of the frame, Benton responded with another run as Williams scored after an Eldorado error.
Benton later added two more runs in the bottom of the sixth.
At the plate, Wynn, Oxford, Highland, Bonenberger and Page all had a hit. Page drove in a team-high three runs, while Oliver Davis, Oxford and Bonenberger each had one. Wynn, Oxford, Picklesimer and Williams all scored two runs, while Braden Summers, Page and Dunn scored one run.
For Eldorado, Sigler, Kasiar, Vessel and Byrd all had a hit. Kasiar drove in two, thanks in part to his home run in the sixth inning, scoring Sigler.
Benton now awaits the winner of today's (Thursday) game between Harrisburg and West Frankfort, slated for 4 p.m.
Bondi added as solid and steady as Avery was, throwing just 51 pitches, he could see the start again in the title game.
"He's at least an option," Blondi said. "That's the one thing we wanted to be able to do -- keep our pitches down and give us a chance."
Michael Dann covers prep and college sports for the Harrisburg Register, Eldorado Journal & Gallatin County Democrat. Follow him on Twitter: @spydieshooter.