News From Terre Haute, Indiana

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June 1, 2010

4 in a row: South claims fourth straight sectional title with 2-1 win over North

TERRE HAUTE — Sometimes baseball has a way of making plans irrelevant.

Host Terre Haute North was able to save the pitcher it wanted for the championship game of its Class 4A sectional on Monday, finessing its way through a nervous 11-6 win over Plainfield in one semifinal game, while Terre Haute South used ace A.J. Reed to pull off an 11-1 win over Northview earlier in the day.

And in the championship game, North’s Bryan Nacke pitched well — just not quite as well as unheralded Josh Dove and Brent Mulvihill of South, which won its fourth straight high school baseball sectional championship by a 2-1 score.

“We got the pitching situation we wanted,” coach Shawn Turner of the Patriots said in a quiet dugout after the championship game. “We just did not put the ball in play nearly as often as we needed to.”

“We’re unheralded as a pitching team,” said Mulvihill, trying without any success at all to keep a huge grin off his face after the game, “but we have a really deep staff. Everyone thinks it’s just A.J., but we have a lot backing him up.”

After the offensive eruptions by both teams earlier in the day, the championship game — delayed slightly more than 30 minutes by a thunderstorm that passed through between sessions of the sectional — was quite a contrast.

Dove pitched three hitless innings to get the Braves off to a good start, then drove in a run himself in the bottom of the third when he was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded after the Patriots pitched around Reed.

“I got hit right in the tailbone,” said Dove, still grimacing slightly after the game. “I was hoping it would hit my butt.”

Parker Fulkerson led off the top of the fourth with a bouncer over the mound that went for an infield hit, however, and went all the way to third when Michael Mace hit a soft grounder on a hit-and-run play. Dougie Collett followed with an RBI single and David Knight doubled to the fence in left-center.

Dove got two hard-hit balls to go right to South infielders to escape the second-and-third situation with no further damage, however. Then, after a leadoff walk to Tony Rosselli in the top of the fifth, was lifted for Mulvihill.

“We probably went too long with Josh,” said Kraemer, who had planned a committee of pitchers for the championship game, “but he was doing a good job; he just got tired.”

Mulvihill got out of that inning without a run scoring, and South scored with two out in the bottom of the inning when Jacob Hayes was hit by a pitch, Reed walked for a second straight time and Dove got his second RBI with a single to left. Mulvihill didn’t allow a hit until Shawn Walker’s two-out pinch double in the top of the seventh, but Walker was stranded at third.

“Our pitchers came out throwing strikes, our defense was very good, and we had a couple more scoring opportunities, but stuff happens,” Dove said. “When the opportunities came my way [for the two RBIs], I took advantage.”

“Bryan Nacke pitched a good ballgame,” said Turner. “[The Braves] got timely hits and took advantage of the few mistakes we made.

“The kids played hard; I didn’t have them ready to be as aggressive at the plate as we should have been.”

“I’m just so happy for this senior class,” Kraemer said. “Four sectionals in a row is something that’s never been done at South, and it’s so neat to see these kids celebrate.

“Nacke is a good pitcher; he did that to us in the regular season,” Kraemer added. “Luckily we were able to push a couple runs across.”

“This was a great group of kids and a great group of seniors,” Turner said of the Patriots. “There are a lot more positive memories than negative ones by far … they still got a [Metropolitan Interscholastic Conference] championship, but it’s hard to beat Terre Haute South three times in one season.”

In the semifinal games, South’s win was surprising because of how one-sided it was.

The Braves got three runs in the top of the first, Reed helping himself with a booming two-run double and scoring the third run on a wild pitch, and the Knights couldn’t mount quite enough threats against the big lefthander.

Reed wasn’t at his best on the mound, barely able to find his strikeout pitch for several innings and laboring through a high pitch count, but he walked no one and kept the Knights at bay.

“I thought we put some good swings on the ball,” coach Scott McDonald of the Knights said after the game. “We wanted to make [Reed] throw a lot of pitches, and we did that early.”

Northview got a first-inning double from Zac Niehaus and a double by Seth Lunsford and a one-out single by Joey Thomas in the second, but Reed escaped the second-inning jam by inducing a popup and a grounder. Then South got two runs with the help of Northview errors in the fourth inning and five more in the fifth — Reed getting a two-run single and freshman catcher Preston Tofaute a big double in that frame.

Tofaute and Zach Duggins, the eighth and ninth hitters in South’s lineup, were on base eight straight times, with Tofaute enjoying a 4-for-4 day.

“That’s a big key [having the bottom of the order come through], because A.J. and Dove are killing the ball,” Tofaute said after the game. “If we get some pop at the bottom, it really helps our cause.”

“Defensively, [Tofaute’s] been awful good back there,” Kraemer said, “and he’s really been working hard on the offensive side of the game.”

South nearly ended the game in five innings, but senior pinch hitter Roy Brown homered with two out in the fifth to cut the lead to 10-1. A double by Duggins restored the 10-run lead in the sixth, however.

“A.J. obviously didn’t have his good stuff, but you just go out there and compete,” Kraemer said. “And Northview’s an awful good team.”

“Our defense wasn’t very good,” said McDonald, “and [starting pitcher] Craig Bell gets another hard-luck loss. Our game plan started to work; we just couldn’t put back-to-back hits together.”

The second semifinal game was a pitchers’ duel between Plainfield’s Daniel Wuensch and North’s Ryan Bose for two innings. Then it turned into a less-than-perfect display of baseball.

North got two gift runs in the top of the third on the first three of Plainfield’s eventual seven errors, only to have the Quakers score four runs with three homers in the bottom of the inning.

The Patriots got single runs in the fourth and fifth, but Plainfield broke the tie with an unearned run of its own in the bottom of the fifth.

The biggest play of the game probably came with one out and the bases loaded in the top of the sixth. Rosselli hit a potential double-play ball that would have ended the inning with the Patriots still behind, but beat the throw to first for the first of his three RBIs in the last two innings. The Patriots took the lead for good with two more runs before the inning ended — a wild pitch scoring the go-ahead run, and Andrew Davis driving in the other — and Rosselli’s two-run single capped a four-run seventh inning.

“That was huge,” Turner said when asked about Rosselli’s sprint to first base to avoid the double play. “We’re very fortunate he was the one legging it out.”

Although the Patriots got 10 hits — two each by Collett and Knight plus a triple by Mace — the word fortunate applied to more than that portion of the game.

“It was ugly,” Turner summarized. “Somebody told us that Plainfield wasn’t very good, but whoever that was didn’t measure their heart and their ability to compete. We were very fortunate.”

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