What do Rockville's baseball team and mercurial Indiana Pacers guard Lance Stephenson have in common?
They were both born ready.
Unlike the sometimes unseaworthy Stephenson, the Rockville ship sails smooth and steady, and that was never more evident than in its Class A Kokomo Semistate game on Saturday at Highland Park against Washington Township.
Rockville staked itself to an early lead, starting pitcher Dalton Laney held the Senators at bay, and the Rox were never seriously challenged in a 5-1 victory. The semistate championship vaults the fifth-ranked Rox into an IHSAA baseball championship game for the first time in school history.
The Rox certainly didn't look like neophytes to this stage. Rockville exuded a calm confidence that the Senators couldn't match, especially in the early going. Rockville has won 16 consecutive games, so that confidence has been earned, but this was a new stage. Rockville performed on it with aplomb.
"They like the spotlight. It's a good thing they do ... because they're in it now," Rockville coach Bob Kyle said.
Kyle has said throughout Rockville's postseason run how loose the Rox are off the field, but their play on it belies the image of a fancy-free team he says the Rox are.
"They were loose. They were so excited about coming into this thing and moving on to the next week. They didn't overlook [Washington Township], they knew they were good, and sometimes they might not look focused, but when they get between those white lines, they're a different bunch of boys," Kyle said.
While both teams had five base hits, Laney's command saw to it that the Senators' hits amounted to little.
He struck out 11 and allowed five hits. While Laney also walked three and hit two batters, he was at his best under duress. The most notable moment was when Washington Township had runners at first and second with one out in the third. Laney proceeded to strike out the next two Senators.
Washington Township stranded 10 runners overall.
"They put the ball in play pretty often, but I was able to throw strikes too. They got a lot of runners on-base, but I was proud not to let them in," Laney said.
Laney could relax on the mound as Rockville (28-3) put its stamp on the game from the start. Ben Cunningham walked, Laney singled and John Brown walked with one out. Craig Overpeck drove in Rockville's first run as Washington Township second baseman Corey Holderread's throw to second to force pinch-runner Jake Bassett was late.
Dalton Clark was up next and he singled to center, just under the glove of Holderread. Laney and Bassett scored and it was 3-0. John Hughett's single to right rounded out Rockville's four-run first as the Rox batted around against the rattled Senators.
The four-run inning was a gift for Laney, who could settle in and relax.
"When you've got a four-run lead, your pitches don't have to be perfect every time. A single and one run isn't going to devastate. That four-run lead is a big bonus for a pitcher," Kyle said.
That cause-and-effect also explained the calm the Rox played with. It's what they've done throughout their magical season.
"We rely on each other. We work off of each other and we pull each other together. We work off of our pitching and we know we can hit. That's why we're so ready," Clark said.
The Senators (23-9) never climbed out of their early hole. Rockville added a run in the fourth as Cunningham scored on interference at third base. What little offense Washington Township produced was counter-balanced by Laney's pitching or Rockville's defense.
Rockville center fielder Tyler Rapp ended one threat in the fifth as he ranged to his left to make an over-the-shoulder catch on a trailing liner by Washington Township's James Milligan. The Senators got a run across in the sixth, but the best they could do from there was strand runners at the corners against Laney.
Rockville did not play Shakamak -- its opponent in Saturday's 1 p.m. Class A championship game -- this season. Not that it bothers Kyle, who was asked about his potential opponents before the Lakers won their semistate.
"I've seen neither. I didn't these guys either and I didn't see Frontier [the top-ranked team Rockville toppled in its regional] either. Baseball has to be played out there," said Kyle, gesturing to the diamond. "You can watch somebody all day long, but if you can't execute pitches and plays, it doesn't matter."
Rockville has had success in recent years in several sports, but baseball's maiden voyage to a state championship game was one the Rox cherished.
"It's means the world to me. This team has wanted it. We've held on to it and we're finally here," Clark said.
WASHINGTON TOWNSHIP (AB-R-H-BI) -- Holderread 2b 4-0-0-0, Goodan p 4-0-1-0, Collins ss 4-0-2-0, Connelly c 4-0-1-0, Milligan rf 3-0-0-0, Pappas lf 3-0-0-0, Kwiatkowski cf 0-1-0-0, Peiffer dh 2-0-0-0, Green 3b 3-0-1-1, Adkins 1b 0-0-0-0. TOTALS 27-1-5-1.
ROCKVILLE (AB-R-H-BI) -- Cunningham rf 2-2-0-0, Rapp cf 3-0-1-0, Laney p 4-1-2-0, Brown 2-0-0-0, Bassett pr 0-1-0-0, Overpeck 1b 2-1-0-1, Clark 3b 3-0-1-2, Paddock ss 3-0-0-0, Hughett 2b 3-0-1-1, Monroe lf 3-0-0-0. TOTALS 25-5-5-5.
E -- Connelly, Goodan; Overpeck. LOB -- WT 10, R 7. SB -- Collins; Cunningham, Overpeck. Interference -- Green.
HBP -- by Laney 2 (Kwiatkowski, Peiffer).
Next -- Rockville (28-3) will play either Shakamak or Vincennes Rivet in the IHSAA Class A state championship game next Friday or Saturday.
Rox beat Washington Township to win Class A Kokomo Semistate
What do Rockville's baseball team and mercurial Indiana Pacers guard Lance Stephenson have in common?
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