ALTON – Monday afternoon was the pay-off game.

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The third game of the best-of-three regular-season series between the Marquette Catholic Explorers and Southwestern Piasa Birds on a rainy day at Lloyd Hopkins Field.

It was Piasa with an empathic 11-1 win in Brighton back on March 20 before Marquette won a narrow 2-1 contest in Alton on April 10.

A little over a month later, it was the Explorers again with the win, this time by a score of 5-3 Monday evening to close out the regular season.

Marquette finishes with a record of 14-15, its first regular season record below .500 since 2021.

Piasa also closed its regular season at 26-7, matching a season-high win mark set back in 2015.

The loss snapped a six-game winning streak for the Piasa Birds, and the weather certainly didn’t help.

Being a turf field at Lloyd Hopkins, teams can and often do play through the rain. That was the case Monday as any player out on that field was getting drenched during the first two innings.

The Explorers took advantage and caught Piasa off guard.

Logan Keith was on the mound to start the game for the Birds and he opened the game with back-to-back walks before Scott Vickrey reached on a misplayed fielder’s choice to load the bases.

The freshman Joe Stephan then provided the big hit with a bases-clearing single, a ball that got by the outfielder as an error, allowing all three runs to score and Stephan to wind up at third.

Keith proceeded to strike out the next three batters to prevent any more damage.

More damage was done in the second inning though as Keith gave up another leadoff walk before Tyler Roth reached on an error, allowing Keller Jacobs to get around to third.

Jacobs would score on a wild pitch to make it 4-0.

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“We talked about it,” Marquette head coach Tim Fhnestock said regarding the weather. “That’s the good thing about turf, that’s the bad thing about turf; you keep playing. And that’s what’s weird. Because I thought we were more focused during the rain and we made a couple mistakes after it stopped.”

The first two innings were the worst of the rain, but there was still plenty of baseball left as the clouds began to part.

Southwestern made it a game in the top of the fourth after Parker LeMarr was walked, Reed Campbell was hit by a pitch, and then Rocky Darr was walked to load the bases.

Roth was on the mound at this time for the Explorers and he walked in a run before Ryan Lowis hit into a fielder’s choice to plate another run.

The Explorers had been working a no-hitter through three and two-thirds innings but that was broken up by Marcus Payne’s RBI single that made it a 4-3 ball game.

Marquette plated its final run in the sixth when Mikey Wilson scored on a wild pitch to get to the 5-3 final scoreline.

“It was a struggle in the rain, but that’s not an excuse,” Piasa head coach Brian Hanslow said.

“We didn’t play very good defense today. They got some hits when we gave them some walks and things. We left over, I think 13 guys on base today. We’re getting guys on base and then not getting the big hit.”

“We had two hits in a baseball game and three errors,” Hanslow continued. “I’ve never won a baseball game with more errors than hits. Really, we shouldn’t have been in that ball game. They should have taken advantage of it and beat us worse.”

Marquette outhit the Birds 8-2 on the day while throwing four different pitchers. Vickrey started and went one inning, gaining the win. Jacobs threw two innings, Roth threw one, and Cohen Greene closed things out.

The four combined for eight strikeouts, eight walks, two hits, and three earned runs.

Now, both teams turn their attention to the postseason with regional semifinal games later this week.

Piasa, in Class 2A, earned the No. 1 seed in the top half of the Pleasant Plains Sectional. They will take on No. 7-seeded North Mac (10-12) in Virden on Wednesday, at 4:30 p.m.

The Explorers, also in Class 2A, were given the No. 7 seed in the bottom half of the Greenville Sectional. They will take on No. 4-seeded Breese Central (17-14) on Thursday at 4:30 p.m. at Columbia High School.

“Today was a good tune-up,” Fahnestock said. “That’s a good baseball team over there. So, it’s good that we got the W today and we move on to Thursday ready to go.”

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