Harrisburg head coach Jay Thompson was asked to describe Connor Phalin's performance Thursday night at Eovaldi Field in the Bulldogs' Class 2A Sectional Semifinal against ZRC. Thompson's choice: Gutty.
Phalin went six innings, throwing 91 pitches and kept the Tornados at bay by striking out four and limiting ZRC to just three hits.
"He hadn't pitched for about two weeks," Thompson said of his 6-foot-3, 150-pound junior right hander. "We were hoping he would be pretty sharp and he was. He just battled the whole game. He stayed ahead, he got the outs he had to get. I can't say enough about his performance. He was spectacular."
It was also the third straight shut out in the postseason for Harrisburg (29-8) who have now won 18 games in a row.
Gabe Motsinger took the hard luck loss for ZRC as he went 5.2 innings, allowing five runs (four earned) on nine hits, while striking out six and walking one.
Harrisburg got two runs in the top of the third when Will Holland's bunt turned into a throwing error by Motsinger, allowing Ben Brombaugh and Will Gibbs to score. Brombaugh singled into left field and Gibbs sent a scorcher over second.
In the top of the fifth the Bulldogs doubled its lead when Gibbs hit a one-double down the right field line, followed by another double by Holland to score Gibbs. Holland then stole third and scored on Isaac Crabb's single past third.
Harrisburg continued to add to its lead in the sixth when Gibbs' two-out double to centerfield scored Jacob Penrod, who was pinch running for Phalin.
Gibbs finished with two doubles on the day, going 3-for-4 at the plate with an RBI and two runs scored, while Holland also had a multiple hit day, finishing 2-for-4 with a run scored and an RBI.
Crabb, Beal, Phalin and Brombaugh all had one hit.
"We didn't execute very well offensively tonight," Thompson said. "The big guy, Will Gibbs, got everything going. He's scoring runs, he's getting big hits. He's a heck of an offensive catalyst for us."
Harrisburg, now in the Sweet 16, will take on Thursday's other winner, Nashville on Saturday at 11 a.m. in the 2A Sectional Championship.
Spyder Dann covers prep and college sports for the Southern Illinois Local Media News Group. Follow him on Twitter: @spydieshooter.