HANOVER – Matt Keppen had Andrew Ertmer picked off, and then he didn't. It proved to be extremely costly.
With one out in the top of the first inning, Keppen, Eastland's left-handed starting pitcher, had Ertmer picked off of first base but balked instead.
The miscue led to the only run of the game in River Ridge-Scales Mound's 1-0 win over the Cougars in a Class 1A River Ridge Sectional semifinal on a cool, rainy Wednesday at River Ridge High School.
The teams split a pair of regular-season games. Eastland's season came to an end at 15-8.
On the balk play, Keppen kicked his lead leg toward first base as Ertmer broke for second base. Instead of throwing to first, which he had to by rule, Keppen ran toward Ertmer, resulting in the balk call.
"I never got a guy to move like that, and it threw me off," Keppen said. "I just forgot to throw it. It was just a mental error. I should have had him."
A passed ball put Ertmer at third base. With two outs, Cody Landwer delivered an RBI single to center.
That was all the support Wildcats pitcher Josh Crist needed. Crist was not dominant, but he was solid. Crist fired a one-hitter and struck out seven.
"It was in the back of my mind after the fifth inning," Crist said of the near no-hitter. "That was the first time I've done anything like that. The hit kind of relaxed me for the last couple innings. Tonight I just threw fastballs and curveballs."
Crist was perfect through three innings and did not allow a hit until Ramsay Truckenmiller's two-out single to left in the sixth. Crist walked two.
"It's real hard to believe," Truckenmiller said. "We're averaging eight or nine runs a game, and only getting one hit and no runs. It seems unreal. You get the first three innings and it starts to press on you. But, we've been in that situation before. We should have pushed through."
Keppen (4-4) was almost as good as Crist, throwing five-hit ball over five-plus innings. He struck out five and walked one.
"Crist was good. That's the first time we've been blanked," Eastland coach Weston Burkholder said. "He was dealing and keeping us off-balance. When we did hit it, it was right at them. Matt Keppen threw a hell of a game too."
Star of the game: Josh Crist, RRSM, 1-hit shutout, 7 SO
Key performers: Matt Keppen, Eastland, 5-hit ball over 5+ innings, 1 run, 5 SO; Cody Landwer, RRSM, game's only RBI