CARLYLE, Ill. – It takes 21 outs to win an IHSA-sanctioned baseball game.

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Those outs come a little harder when they’re for a regional title, but don’t tell Mason Crump that.

Crump started on the mound for the Roxana Shells Saturday morning in the Class 2A Carlyle Regional championship game against Althoff Catholic and pitched the game of his life.

He struck out 16 batters and threw a no-hitter as Roxana won 4-0, earning its first regional crown since 2014.

“Honestly, I didn’t know until the fifth inning,” Roxana head coach Jerry Wheaton said about the no-hitter.

“I looked down and said ‘Huh, he hasn’t walked many guys.’ I just kept it to myself. I’m a little superstitious when it comes to that stuff,” he joked.

“It really didn’t run through my mind at all,” Crump claimed.

“All I was thinking about was dominating and throwing strikes and letting my defense play behind me. I trusted them all game, all year and I always will.”

It didn’t take long for him to get going either. He struck out the first three batters he saw against a solid Crusaders’ batting order.

The Shells, the better seed and therefore the home team, could have blown the game wide open in the bottom of the first.

Brady Jones took a leadoff walk before Elias Thies singled. Crump laid down a sacrifice bunt to move the runners before Kyle Campbell was walked to load the bases. Kael Hester then flew out to the shallow outfield, and coach Wheaton sent Jones home, but the throw was made with plenty of time and Jones was tagged out at the plate as Althoff starting pitcher Adam Smith got out of the jam.

Roxana’s big hit came from Hester in the third when he hit a two-out, two-RBI double. Theis reached on an error before Campbell singled, bringing Hester to the plate. The runs scored easily, but Hester pushed his luck going for third and was tagged out to end the inning, but the runs crossed first to take a 2-0 lead.

Crump once again struck out the side in the fifth and the Shells tacked on another run as well. Jones singled and then stole second and third on wild pitches. Another errant throw saw Jones dart home to make it 3-0 Shells.

Roxana’s final run came in the sixth thanks to an RBI single from Sean Maberry that scored Hester to get the final score of 4-0.

For Wheaton, it was a bit of an emotional moment thanks to his three seniors – Adain Briggs, Kyle Campbell, and Elias Theis.

“These guys, they didn’t get a freshman year because of COVID and the shortened season. They played like 12 JV games and got hardly any development,” Wheaton said.

“There were 14 of those freshman and there’s three left. They’ve been through the bad times, they’ve been through the progress. They’ve been through everything. They show up every day, they stay together and they keep everybody else together.”

“These seniors, they deserve every bit of it,” Wheaton continued. “They’ve been battle-tested in football and wrestling this year and I believe that success builds from sport to sport. I’m just super proud of them.”

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This year’s title comes off the back of last season’s run to the regional title game, one that ended in an 8-0 defeat to the Father McGivney Griffins.

“The way last year ended, that was out of our heads day one when we walked in the gym in January for pitchers and catchers,” Wheaton said.

“We talked about it a little bit here and there, but we haven’t talked about it probably in a couple of months. It is what it is. We went on a heck of a run there. We had no business being in that championship game, but this year we deserved to be here.”

And the Shells know they deserve it too because they put in the work.

“They know they deserve it,” Wheaton said. “They showed up at 7:45 this morning to get swings in before we got on the bus to drive an hour. They were locked in. I told them they had to be there at 7:50, and our parking lot at the hitting facility was full at 7:40 this morning. They showed up amped and ready to go because they came into this game expecting to win.”

Crump and the Shells may have expected a win, but surely no one dreamt of a playoff no-hitter.

With the result, Crump now has a 6-1 record on the year and boasts an impressive 0.91 ERA. He leads the team with 74 strikeouts. 16 of them came on Saturday while only walking three batters.

“He was dominant today,” Wheaton said. “It was fun to watch. I don’t think he was ever stressed. I’m just proud of him. He puts in the work. He does the right warm-ups, all his process to get ready for games, he does it the right way.”

The top of Althoff’s batting order is ominous with the Gomric brothers, Jason Dowell, and Matt Hesse all batting above .300. Hank Gomric has a staggering .469 batting average through 90 plate appearances while brother Bo bats .338.

“We talked about it. We weren’t going to shy away from guys,” Wheaton said.

“Hank [Gomric], he’s a monster. And big 28 [Dowell], they can swing it. But our kids aren’t scared. We preach that. You have to compete.”

Crump shared the same sentiment.

“I mean, you can’t be scared of hitters. I just like to throw them strikes and attack them early,” he said.

Althoff’s season ends at 16-8-1while Roxana moves to 22-13 and into the Greenville Sectional semifinal on Wednesday, May 22 at 2 p.m. They will face top-seeded Effingham St. Anthony (22-5-1) at Greenville High School.

In the other sectional semi, top-seeded Columbia (24-6) takes on No. 2-seeded Teutopolis (22-11) at 4:30 p.m.

Wheaton finished up by praising his kids some more.

“I tip my cap to them,” he said.

“Pictures after the game, they’re trying to get coaches in there, but I didn’t do a thing. I write a lineup and maybe give a couple of signs but it’s up to them. That’s what this is all about. I could play 18 kids and every one of my kids is a starter in some way or another and that’s the best part about this group right now.”

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