Father McGivney closer Evan Koontz waves his team on to storm the field after securing the program's third regional title Monday afternoon at Carrollton High School. (Photos by Brad Piros)

CARROLLTON, Ill. – The Calhoun Warriors were looking for an upset.

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For the first three and a half innings, it looked like they might get one.

On Monday afternoon, Carrollton High School hosted a Class 2A regional championship between the top-seeded Father McGivney Griffins and No. 4-seeded Calhoun.

McGivney was coming in off the back of a 10-0 short-game win over the hosts on Saturday while Calhoun beat White Hall-North Greene 5-3 in its semifinal.

Monday’s contest was much closer than McGivney might have thought, coming back after a 2-0 deficit to win 4-3 and claim the program’s third regional title in four seasons.

“I think it’s great. You’ve got to face adversity,” Father McGivney head coach Chris Erwin said after the surprisingly close win.

“You’re going to face adversity somewhere in the playoffs. It doesn’t matter where it is or how far you go. We’ve been in these situations before. We’ve come back a lot.”

That adversity began in the bottom of the first when McGivney stranded a couple of base runners. Another runner was left out on base in the second before Calhoun made it hurt in the third.

Mason Holmes started out on the mound for the Griffins and got through the first two innings unscathed. But two straight singles and a walk loaded the bases in a hurry. An error allowed the first run to score before another run crossed after a fielder’s choice. McGivney didn’t know what just hit them and the Warriors were up 2-0.

The Griffins did get a run right back in the bottom of the third after Drew Kleinheider hit a two-out single and then stole second. Nick Franklin’s RBI single brought Kleinheider home and cut the lead in half.

Holmes stayed out on the mound and went three-up, three-down before McGivney’s bats went back to work.

After Ben Sink flew out and Nathan Terhaar grounded out, Holmes walked bringing the top of McGivney’s order back up to bat. That’s when Calhoun’s starter Trevor Rose was replaced.

Jake Kress took over and could not find the strike zone with his curveball. He threw eight straight balls and walked back-to-back batters to load the bases. He then balked, sending Holmes home to tie the game at 2-2.

Kleinheider then stepped up and had the big two-RBI single to put his team ahead 4-2.

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“If he’s not an all-stater I don’t know what is,” Erwin said about one of his team captains. “That kid is flat-out nails. He comes up all the time in big scenarios.”

Kress got out of the inning with a strikeout while Holmes went back out for the fifth and went three-up, three down again.

He stayed out to start the sixth and had back-to-back runners reach via errors. That was his last action as he was replaced by Evan Koontz. A sacrifice bunt moved the runners over and then a groundout brought a run in to get the final scoreline of 4-3.

It was a game that Erwin called a “wake-up call” and one that no one would have thought to be that close.

“No, I don’t think so,” Erwin said. “Although, we don’t get a chance to see them play. A lot of similar opponents. You know, their best pitcher is the last guy that threw. I think they kind of backward-pitched us today. They threw a guy, we kind of had an inkling, maybe that was going to happen, throwing kind of a soft-throwing guy to keep us off balance a bit.”

Whatever the trick was for Calhoun, it worked in the early goings.

“I didn’t expect us to not get some hits when we did. But that’s a good ball club and defensively, [Calhoun] made some outstanding plays,” Erwin added.

Calhoun’s season comes to a close at 10-18 while McGivney improves to 32-4.

The Griffins will play a familiar opponent in their next game, and on a familiar field.

McGivney, the host of their own sectional, welcomes the Christ Our Rock Lutheran Silver Stallions (15-12) to Glen Carbon on Wednesday, May 22 at 4:30 p.m.

No. 4 Gibault Catholic (14-21) and No. 2 Greenfield (22-12-1) play in the other semifinal beforehand at 2 p.m. The sectional championship game is on Saturday, May 25 at 11 a.m.

McGivney beat COR twice this season en route to winning the Gateway Metro Conference title outright. The Griffins won by scores of 9-0 on April 16 in Centralia and 2-1 on May 11 in Glen Carbon.

Erwin doesn’t mind the familiar foe.

“We do know a lot about Christ Our Rock and how they play us and what we do against them,” he said. “I think we’ll be ready. We hit the ball really well against them. I know the guys that they have. Over the last two years, we’ve seen everybody they have.”

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