May 29—Terre Haute North pitchers allowed eight walks.
Offensively, the Patriots received four free passes in the first inning but scored only two runs, they didn't pick up their third hit until the fifth frame and they hit into two inning-ending double plays.
So they lost, right?
Nope, they defeated Decatur Central 13-6 in the Class 4A Terre Haute South Sectional for high school baseball on a sunny Saturday afternoon.
"How?" you might ask. Well, this was almost three hours of extreme momentum shifts, demonstrating that momentum doesn't mean much when you yank it away from your opponent.
For example, Decatur Central starter Brycen Shive walked the first four batters he faced and, with the help of a passed ball and a throwing error, two runs scored. Having seen enough, DC coach Sean Winkelseth summoned Kayden Barr in from right field to pitch. Barr eventually closed out the inning without further damage, but all of the action and inaction took so long that it seemed as if the Patriots had tallied five or six runs instead of a pair.
"Obviously in the first inning, we had a chance to get a big number on the board," North coach Scott Lawson told the Tribune-Star afterward. "We had the bases loaded and nobody out and didn't get a basehit there."
Yet they still had the momentum . . . until DC lead-off man Brayden Coffey slammed Tyler Will's first pitch over the left-field fence to immediately cut the deficit to 2-1. Shive then walked and stole second base. A groundout advanced him to third and Shive came home on Jaylen Yates' line-drive single to left to tie the score.
Then the Indianapolis school grabbed "Old Mo" and put him in a headlock in the bottom of the third.
Keelan Dyson led off with a homer to left-center, Zach Losito singled and Yates walked, forcing Lawson to put Jackson Thoma on the mound with their team trailing 3-2.
The Hawks gradually made the score 6-2 before the inning ended, with the help of a two-run single by Barr and alert baserunning by Mason Mills to chalk up their third run of the same play.
Momentum was definitely on Decatur Central's side at this point, especially after North went scoreless in the fourth, succumbing to the second of those previously mentioned DC double plays.
North fans maybe didn't feel too good about their team's chances of winning, until the top of the fifth when the Patriots exploded for four runs to tie the score at 6-6. Highlights of that outburst included an RBI double by Bryson Carpenter, an RBI groundout by Alex Karr, an RBI infield single by Logan Nicoson, an infield single by Reece Bradley to load the bases and an RBI single by designated-hitter Sam Glotzbach.
Old Mo didn't know which way to go at this point, especially with Thoma settling into an effective relief outing, until the Patriots figuratively screamed in the top of the sixth: "Come here! You're mine!"
Kyler Dixon led off by reaching on a throwing error — ending up on second base — then he went to third on Noah Bray's sacrifice bunt and sprinted home on Carpenter's sac fly to catapult North on top 7-6. Karr followed with a double to left and Cam Judson singled in Karr and advanced to second on the throw home — 8-6. Executing a hit-and-run, Nicoson lined a single to left to plate courtesy-runner Peyton Lintzenich and Bradley walked. That forced the Hawks to switch pitchers from Barr to Coffey, who had been playing shortstop.
Glotzbach greeted Coffey with an infield single to load the bases and Will lined a two-run single that enabled Nicoson and Bradley to add to their run totals. In all, five North runs had scored, making the score 11-6.
Thoma held Decatur Central scoreless again in the bottom of the sixth. So with one more inning left, North forced Old Mo to tap out — again, figuratively speaking — in the top of the seventh.
With one out, Carpenter blasted Coffey's offering over the left-center fence to make it 12-6. Then Karr reached when the DC first baseman allowed the ball to roll between his legs for an error. (RIP, Bill Buckner.)
Bradley later knocked in Karr with a double for the final run.
Thoma held on in the bottom of the seventh to preserve the hard-earned victory, despite issuing six walks to go with Will's two early in the contest.
"Our kids battled back and showed a little bit of toughness, which we're going to have to show again on Monday," Lawson assessed.
"I believe this game was full of momentum shifts," Carpenter added. "I believe my team just stayed up and fought a little bit harder than the other team. We got the job done today."
In the second sectional matchup Saturday evening at South, Brownsburg routed Plainfield 11-2.
That means North and Brownsburg will tangle in the sectional's first semifinal contest at 10 a.m. Memorial Day, then the tournament host Braves will meet Avon at approximately noon. The sectional championship game is slated for 7 p.m. Monday.
Leading hitters for the Patriots on Saturday were Carpenter, who went 3 for 3 with a double, walk, sac fly and three runs batted in; and Nicoson, who went 3 for 5 with two RBIs.
"With these rain delays we've been having lately, coach Lawson had us hitting in the cage [upstairs at North]," Carpenter explained. "He was using drills to make us hit the ball a little bit better."
Regarding his home run Saturday, Carpenter remembers hitting the belt-high pitch hard and he remembers flipping his bat while looking at Coffey on the mound after he hit it, a spur-of-the-moment act that Lawson criticized him for when he returned to the dugout.
"[Coffey] was being a little cocky on the mound and at the plate," Carpenter pointed out. "So I figured, he was going to miss [on throwing a good pitch] at some point. It was a hanging curveball. I had a pretty big swing on that one. . . . It wasn't my best moment, but I did bat-flip. Coach said we just need to go out there and punch people in the mouth [figuratively, of course] and we don't need to do all this 'show' stuff."
"Bryson's been solid all year for us," Lawson said after everyone had cooled off. "Obviously, we like to get runners on when he gets up. So it's really important for the first two guys [Dixon and Bray] to have good ABs [at-bats]. . . . The depth of our lineup is getting better as the season goes."
Lawson also praised the right-handed Thoma for his clutch relief performance.
"Jackson did a good job," the Patriots' coach mentioned. "He came in and was able to locate all three of his pitches for strikes. He kept them off-balance a little bit."
As for the team's chances Monday, Lawson hopes they learned a thing or two from Saturday's triumph.
"I hope this is a moment we can grow from," he said.