TERRE HAUTE —
High school baseball sectional games between West Vigo and Edgewood have had a tendency to be unpredictable over the years, but the Vikings and Mustangs outdid themselves in that area Thursday evening — and Thursday night.
A matchup of the best pitcher against the best overall pitching staff in the Class 3A West Vigo Sectional resulted in 23 runs, 23 walks and seven wild pitches. The famously stellar Viking defense yielded six unearned runs (while the Mustangs gave away four themselves).
And when Davie Inman’s ninth-inning walkoff single finally gave West Vigo a 12-11 win it was almost anticlimactic — and probably a relief to some of the shivering fans of South Vermillion and Owen Valley, who had arrived an hour earlier, when their teams were supposed to start playing.
“They say two things that can mess you up are thinking about winning and worrying about losing,” coach Steve DeGroote of the Vikings said afterward, and both teams had plenty of opportunities for both the thoughts and the worries.
“I thought we had it won,” said Inman afterward, for example, “but [the Mustangs] came back and we had some little errors and some mental errors that led to runs … it was a bad feeling.”
Before the Vikings thought they had it won, however, the Mustangs probably thought they were the ones with the game in the bag.
Edgewood won 1-0 when the two teams met in Western Indiana Conference play, and the authors of three-hitters in that game — Reece Phillips of the Mustangs, Brandon Calleja of the Vikings — were back on the mound Thursday. After first-inning infield sloppiness led to two runs, and back-to-back doubles in the second produced another, the visitors had a 3-0 lead that looked huge.
The strike zone was tight, however, and Phillips was unable to adjust. He got a pair of strikeouts to escape two first-inning walks, but in the second frame he walked four more. Jordan Schaffer added an infield hit, Kyle Stewart rapped a two-run single and Inman’s sacrifice fly gave West Vigo a 4-3 lead. Four more free passes and Lucas Fagg’s two-run double made it 7-3 after three innings.
Edgewood got a run back in the top of the fifth, but in the bottom of the inning a missed third strike set the table for Inman’s second sacrifice fly and a three-run homer by Derrick Bennett that made it 11-4.
The Vikings had their own dropped-third-strike error in the top of the sixth, however, and the Mustangs came back with four runs and had the bases loaded when the inning ended. Three walks, two wild pitches and two errors helped the visitors tie the score in the top of the seventh.
“A freshman, four sophomores [on the field] … they got a little nervous,” DeGroote said. “They get to trying too hard and wanting it too bad.”
Kevin Stewart of the Vikings, who had a two-hit shutout a night earlier, had come in and given up the lead but gotten his team out of the seventh inning, and in the eighth and ninth he was untouchable.
“It was rough coming in after [pitching] last night,” he said after the game. “I was a little tight … but after I settled in, we tightened up on defense.”
Fagg led off the bottom of the ninth with the 17th walk off Edgewood pitchers, and slugger Brandin Behringer moved him with a perfect sacrifice bunt. Inman, anxious his previous time at bat, worked a 3-and-1 count before lashing a liner to the left-center gap.
“I was just thinking ‘we’ve got to get this run in,’ ” he said after the game. “I’m always anxious at the plate.”
“[The Mustangs] had won something like 11 of their last 12,” DeGroote said. “This is a huge win … I really feel for [Edgewood]; that was the best pitcher we faced all year.”
“This was amazing,” Kevin Stewart concluded. “I’m ready for Saturday [and the championship game] now.”
West Vigo plays at 7 p.m. Saturday against South Vermillion, whose semifinal game Thursday had barely started at the Tribune-Star deadline.