Catholic High School junior Matthew Tipton just won’t give up the ball.
And for the Fightin’ Irish, that’s a good thing.
The junior threw his second straight complete game Thursday, blanking New Madrid County Central 5-0 in the Class 3 state baseball semifinals at T.R. Hughes Ballpark in O’Fallon.
“Before the game, I didn’t feel great actually, but when I got going, I was ready,” Tipton said. “My coaches talked to me a lot before the game about controlling my emotions and everything. I just had to do that, and I thought I did a pretty good job.”
Tipton has thrown the last 14 innings for Catholic and is 7-1 with an earned-run average barely above 1.00. In two games, he has 17 strikeouts and has allowed only two runs.
“Tipton was untouchable today, I felt like,” said senior Danny Richardson, who led the offense with two hits and reached base in all three plate appearances. “I don’t think that even if we would’ve faced him, we would’ve hit him.
“He usually starts off slow, but from the get-go he was ready to go.”
The Irish (23-4) will play in today’s 1 p.m. final in O’Fallon. Hallsville and Fatima were suspended because of rain in the second semifinal Thursday. The game will resume at 9:30 a.m. today, with Hallsville ahead 2-1 in the bottom of the seventh. Fatima is batting, with a runner at third base and one out.
While Tipton still could be available in relief, Daugherty said he will start junior Tyler Ast and most likely will not use Tipton. Ast threw a complete game in the sectional victory against Cuba, setting up Tipton’s outing against Fair Grove.
“He hit spots as well as he has in a while,” Daugherty said. “When he’s doing that, it’s a good thing.”
Teammates say Tipton’s a different guy off the field than on it. And while he’s “goofy,” as coach Jason Daugherty put it, he’s all business on the mound, especially in big games.
“Whenever he gets serious, before big games, he pitches too tight,” Richardson said. “So, we like him loose but not too loose.”
Tipton must’ve been wound the precise amount, as he allowed just three hits in his latest gem. Officially, Tipton will go in the books as throwing 100 pitches, although Tipton said the count from the dugout was 93.
“He kept the ball down, and he was just excellent,” New Madrid coach Joseph McClarty said. “He was hitting corners and pitching in the bottom of the strike zone. And when a kid is doing that, it’s hard to get the barrel on the ball.”
Catholic had a slow start against New Madrid pitcher Jashawn McDaniel but scratched across runs in the third, despite not getting a hit in the inning, and then Ast knocked in a run in the fourth.
Tipton then allowed three baserunners in the bottom half, but snagged a hard hit ball up the middle to strand the bases loaded with no damage.
Drew Rash knocked in a run with a sacrifice fly in the sixth, and Eric Atwell added an RBI as part of a two-run seventh.
Tipton retired the Eagles in order in the seventh inning, including strikeouts of the final two batters before raising both of his arms in celebration.