Stars advance to sectional final

May 23—Danville — After their sectional opening win on Wednesday night against Lebanon, Western Boone baseball coach Michael Nance talked about the importance of being solid with their defense and pitching heading into the sectional semifinal against Danville.

When the Stars lost to the Warriors in the second game of their conference series earlier in the year, they only had one error, but gave up six walks and didn't play a solid game like they wanted to.

They got all fixed when it mattered the most against the Warriors.

Quinn Westerfeld pitched 6.1 strong innings, the Stars had a big fifth inning offensively, and made all the plays they needed to in the field to come away with a 5-3 win to advance to the sectional final on Monday.

"I am so proud of our guys and so happy for them," Nance said. "Pitching and defense. Quinn Westerfeld pitched a heck of a game, he really commanded the strike zone for 6.1 innings and even when they got a few hits he stayed composed and ahead of hitters. Defensively, we did everything we needed to do behind him. We're making diving catches in the outfield, throwing guys out deep in the hole — it was one of the best defensive games we have played."

The Stars were flashing the leather all around the diamond.

Outfielders Jackson Grimes and Carter Marcum made sliding catches in the outfield to prevent extra bases, Owen Howe made some tough plays at short and Brennan Kopriva made some difficult chances look routine.

It was a team totally locked in and focused on the job at hand.

"As much as nobody outside of this fence believes in us, we believe in each other," Nance said. "When the ball is in play, we know we are good and we are going to get it."

Danville took a 1-0 lead on a wild pitch in the fourth inning, but the Stars didn't take too long to respond.

Howe led off the bottom of the fifth with a double, and stole third. Two batters later Kopriva drove him in with a single.

Gavin Hawkins reached on an error, and Grimes put the Stars ahead 2-1 with a single.

Westerfeld helped his own cause with a run-scoring single, and after a balk advanced the runners, Luke Jackson hit a 2-run single to make it 5-1.

"Once we got through the order twice and saw what he was throwing, we changed to a curve ball first approach," Nance said. "It really worked and we were able to stay back and drive the ball."

Other than Howe's double, which just missed being a homer, the Stars took advantage of finding holes in the Warriors' defense throughout the inning.

Nance said the Stars put a lot of emphasis on making sure they put the ball in play and forcing the defense to make a play.

"We always tell our guys, put the ball in play and give ourselves a chance," Nance said. "Have a 'we before me' approach and good things are going to happen."

The Warriors made things interesting in the seventh.

With two on and one out, back-to-back singles made it 5-3 and put the tying run on first. The Stars turned to Levi Stewart, who got a pop out and a ground out to end it.

"He has ice water in his veins," Nance said of Stewart. "He just came out, got the two outs and did exactly what we asked him to do. I am super proud of him, that was a tremendous effort."

Grimes and Marcum picked up two hits apiece for the Stars, who got their 18th win of the season.

Western Boone advances to the sectional title game, where they will face Crawfordsville at 11 a.m. on Monday at Danville.

"We aren't done yet," Nance said. "We have talked about the beginning of every single practice this year that we had two goals — compete in the conference and win the sectional. We did a really good job of competing for our conference and now we have an opportunity to win the sectional. We aren't done yet to complete our goal."

Will Willems is the Sports Editor of the Lebanon Reporter. Follow him on Twitter @Will_Willems.