After his team earned its first trip to the final four since 1994, Oak Grove baseball coach Kirk Sears expected a little bit more of a celebration.

After his team earned its first trip to the final four since 1994, Oak Grove baseball coach Kirk Sears expected a little bit more of a celebration.

The Panthers did let loose for a few minutes following Thursday’s 3-2 Class 4 quarterfinal victory over St. Pius X at Webb Park, but there were no Gatorade baths, no massive dogpiles, no excessive revelry.

“Usually after a big game like that and a big win, you see a big huge dogpile,” Sears said. “There was a celebration, but they calmed it really quick. They’ve just been focused. They have a purpose and they seem to never be satisfied. They just want to continue playing baseball together.”

The Panthers (21-7) showed a similar focus early in Thursday’s contest after Pius took a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the second inning. In the top of the third, Oak Grove loaded the bases. The Warriors (8-9) appeared to escape the threat when Cole Doherty grounded into what was originally called a 4-6-3 double play. But after conferring, the umpiring crew ruled that the first baseman’s foot came off the bag, allowing Corey Bolin to score. Dakota Hearn then drove in Sean Baker with an infield single to tie the score.

“I thought he came off the bag,” Sears said. “From my view, my angle there, I thought he was off the bag.”

The call proved pivotal in a game in which rallies were minimal. The Panthers totaled just four hits and only put multiple runners on base in an inning twice.

In the fifth, Levi Harmon helped manufacture the winning run by drawing a one-out walk, stealing second, advancing to third on a wild pitch and coming home when Hearn lined a sharp grounder that was misplayed by the Pius shortstop.

“Whenever you get into a close game, one of the things we’ve always talked with our kids in my six years here is you’ve got to be able to pitch and you’ve got to be able to catch it and you’ve got to be able to defend and you’ve go to be able to manufacture things,” Sears said.

The Panthers received plenty of strong pitching from Doherty, who only one earned run while holding Pius to four hits and striking out three over five innings. Ace Conner Matson came on for the final two frames and whiffed three to earn the save.

“I just had to make sure I kept the ball down,” said Doherty, who coaxed seven groundball outs and also reached base three times and stole a bag. “St. Pius has some pretty good hitters. I knew I needed to keep the ball down and let my defense work behind me.”

Oak Grove will take on Boonville (17-8) at 7 p.m. next Thursday at T.R. Hughes Ballpark in O’Fallon. If the Panthers can notch two more victories, they’ll capture the program’s first state championship since 1992.

“It’s an incredible feeling,” Hearn said.

Follow Shawn Garrison on Twitter: @GarrisonEJC