News From Terre Haute, Indiana

High School

June 16, 2012

IHSAA Baseball Championship: Lafayette Central Catholic tops Shakamak

INDIANAPOLIS — It’s not often a high school baseball team on the short end of a 12-2 score can legitimately lament wasted chances and missed opportunities, but Shakamak endured that unfortunate situation Saturday afternoon at Victory Field. If former Arizona Cardinals football coach Dennis Green had been there, he could have paraphrased his most famous rant: “You let ‘em off the hook.” And coach Chip Sweet of the Lakers would have agreed. Top-ranked Lafayette Central Catholic won its fourth straight Class A state championship and fifth in the last six years — Shakamak interrupted in 2008 — by putting together a tie-breaking nine-run rally in the top of the fifth inning Saturday. But the Knights were extremely fortunate the score was tied at that point, and the Lakers contributed to their own demise to help the big rally get started. “When someone looks at the score, they’ll think we got hammered,” Sweet said after the game. “But we put pressure on [the Knights].” And could have put on even more. Shakamak hadn’t been to Victory Field since its championship season, so every Laker was playing there for the first time — and several Knights for the fourth time. Shakamak’s start, understandably, was a little shaky. “We let the surroundings get to us a little bit,” sophomore Brett Yeryar admitted after the game. LCC got an unearned run in the top of the first inning on a leadoff single by Austin Munn, a passed ball, a ground out and a sacrifice fly. The Knights could have had more in the second inning after getting two hits and two walks, but Laker catcher Dylan Collins threw out one runner trying to advance on a ball in the dirt and Patrick Green struck out Munn — the Knights’ only strikeout of the game, as it turned out — with two out and the bases loaded. Then it was the Lakers’ turn. Yeryar laced a sharp single to center with one out in the bottom of the second, Luke Sweet walked and sophomore Christian Burris followed with probably the longest hit of his life. A .214 batter entering the game, with no home runs to his credit, Burris jumped on the first pitch he saw from Munn and launched a drive that one-hopped the fence between the 418 sign in left-center and the 405 mark in straightaway center, both runners scoring easily. The 400-foot blast, a homer in every other park he’ll play in, was “pretty much” the longest of his life, Burris said after the game. “I didn’t watch it, I was too busy running,” he added. “At that point, I thought we could win it, big-time. I thought we could’ve been state champions.” The next two Lakers couldn’t drive Burris home, and the Knights tied the score in the top of the third on a leadoff walk, a hit and a sacrifice fly. But the Shakamak hitters weren’t finished with Munn. Brock Dowell led off the third inning with an infield hit, Collins walked and Green hit a one-hop smash off Munn’s glove. The ball trickled into short right field but Dowell, who had held up at third, didn’t realize that in time to score. That proved to be a big play when Munn got out of the bases-loaded, no-outs jam with a strikeout and a double-play grounder. The Knights went out one-two-three in the top of the fourth, though, and Munn yielded three walks and threw a wild pitch in the bottom of the inning. One of the Lakers was picked off base, however, and that threat was wasted too. “Brock didn’t see me waving him in, and then we got the runner picked off the next inning,” Sweet said afterward. “We had [Munn] on the ropes at the time; a timely hit in there would’ve made a huge difference. “We should’ve gone into the fifth with the lead, a minimum [lead] of 3-2. Then [the Knights are] starting to feel a little pressure.” Instead, Munn led off the LCC fifth with a walk and Nick Stone blooped a ball down the right-field line that fell for a double. Green induced what looked like a harmless popup down the third-base line, but three Laker defenders were unable make a play and the ball landed a foot in fair territory for an RBI single. Andrew Hubertz followed with a seeing-eye single to drive in one run, LCC’s other runners moving to second and third on the fairly close play at home, and Jake Churchill doubled through the Lakers’ pulled-in infield for two more runs. “We miss those opportunities, and then we start the fifth with a walk,” Sweet noted later. “They get a duck snort [the bloop double], that ball falls in down the left-field line … that opened the floodgates, and sometimes it’s hard to get the bleeding stopped.” The Knights wound up with eight hits in the inning, including a pair of long extra-base blows later, and added four more hits for their final run in the sixth. “It’s definitely disappointing,” Dowell said after the game — and after winning the L.V. Phillips Mental Attitude Award for Class A baseball. “This wasn’t the ending we wanted. [The Knights] came here and did what they needed to do … but I couldn’t fault our effort. I couldn’t ask for a better group of guys to go out with.” “LCC is a great ballclub,” said fellow senior Robert Fowler. “We didn’t have enough hits and we didn’t make enough plays.” “This is a bitter taste, but I’m glad we made it here,” said Yeryar. “We battled hard, and I feel we deserved to be here. It wasn’t the greatest of outcomes, but we got some experience and we hope to be back soon.” “That taste in my mouth is going to push me to come back again,” Burris agreed. “We can come back and win it next year.” “It’s really been a special year,” Sweet said. “We felt [at the beginning of the year] we were going to be better, and then the young kids got some confidence, our hitting started coming around … the kids are hurting right now, but at this age they’re resilient. Are they disappointed a little bit? They might be, but I know before long they’ll be really proud of what they accomplished.” “It was a great season, with a lot of great times,” said Fowler. “We had a great group of guys and great coaches. “[Being part of this team] helps me persevere,” maybe the team’s most improved player continued. “I learned a lot from each coach, each in his own way. They taught me an unbelievable amount of knowledge.”

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High School
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