News From Terre Haute, Indiana

May 5, 2013

Four teams still in running for Big Four baseball crown

STAFF REPORT
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — The 2013 Big Four baseball tournament was going to last longer than Saturday anyway, thanks to a schedule change this season.

Thanks to steady rain at Terre Haute North, it will last even longer than planned.

Terre Haute South beat West Vigo 2-0 in Saturday morning’s first game, and the second contest between Northview and the host Patriots was halted in the top of the third inning as the field became unplayable.

The final set of round-robin games had already been moved to Monday, when West Vigo goes back to North to play the Patriots and South travels to Northview. The completion of Saturday’s suspended game will finish the tournament — sometime.

It appears all four teams are still capable of winning the championship too. West Vigo’s win over Northview last week and North’s victory over South in the second game of the Metropolitan Interscholastic Conference were the first round, so the Vikings and Braves are now 1-1.

North is 1-0 and Northview 0-1, but the Knights are leading the Patriots 2-0 and have the bases loaded and one out in the top of the third inning.

Should the Patriots finish the tournament 3-0, obviously they are the winners. If two teams tie with 2-1 records, the champion is the winner in head-to-head competition between the two. If three teams finish 2-1, the tiebreaker is fewest runs allowed — which would make the work done Saturday by the West Vigo infielders pretty important.

Although South’s Damon Olds had a no-hitter until the top of the seventh, when Davie Inman slapped a grounder past third base, West Vigo — which shut out Northview last week — kept the game close by turning five double plays in six innings.

Second baseman Lucas Fagg was the pivot on two and started a third; freshman shortstop Jordan Schaffer started two and was the middle of a third; Inman made a diving stop at third base to start one; and first baseman Brandin Behringer saved a run in the first inning when he took a throw from Inman for the first out, then threw home to double up a South runner trying to score.

The twin killing in the third inning enabled the Vikings and Cameron Crooks — making his first varsity start — escape a bases-loaded situation, and the Braves loaded the bases with two out after the fourth-inning double play.

“We hit the ball hard,” coach Kyle Kraemer of South. “Give [the Vikings] credit; they made the plays.”

With one out and runners at first and third in the bottom of the fifth — after an infield hit by Cam Higgins, a sacrifice and an infield hit by Justin Jenkins — South’s Conner Shipley hit a smash that short-hopped Schaffer. The Vikings got the force at second, but the relay was late and the Braves had a run.

Preston Tofaute homered to lead off the bottom of the sixth to pad the lead — and of course, two batters later, the Braves hit into another double play.

Just the first run would have been enough for Olds, who fanned 12 batters and allowed just two walks and hit one batter prior to the seventh. Inman got to third on a pair of wild pitches after his hit, but Olds finished the game with has last two strikeouts.

“He went after ‘em with his fastball,” Kraemer said. “Some days he can spot [the fastball] up, and when he does he’s very effective.”

“At least we helped out the tournament by getting a quick game in,” coach Steve DeGroote of the Vikings quipped afterward. “One swing of the bat could have changed the game … our pitchers did their job.

“I’m proud of the kids for their work this week … we battled, toe to toe,” DeGroote added. “[The Braves] won it. They’re a good ballclub, but we are too.”

North appeared to be following the Viking plan in the shortened second game, in which Northview has six hits — including first-inning doubles by Connor Pierce and Nate Newton — but been thwarted by two Patriot double plays.

Pierce led off the game with his two-bagger, went to third on a fielder’s choice and scored the first run as Craig Peters grounded into a double play.

North pitcher Greg Hannum got out of a two-on, none-out situation in the second by catching a bunt in the air and doubling a runner off first, but the Knights got their second run on hits by Peters and Devin Clark and a pair of walks in the third. Footing, particularly on the mound, was precarious enough at that point to end play for the day.

Freshman Nathan Thomas — yes, every Big Four team has at least one outstanding ninth-grader this season — has retired six of the seven Patriots he’s faced so far, allowing one infield hit and striking out three.