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June 20, 2014

North gets a hometown send-off

North fans line street as bus heads for final game

TERRE HAUTE — Whatever happened at Victory Field, the North Patriot baseball squad left Terre Haute Friday knowing they had strong support at home.

Despite a torrential downpour just minutes earlier, a small crowd waved signs and cheered as the state championship-bound team rolled down Wabash Avenue past Memorial Stadium about 3:15 p.m.

The Patriots inside the bus were just about four hours from taking the field in the state Class 4A championship against Noblesville.

“I think it’s just another game to them,” said Sally Massey, grandmother to senior Austin Massey. Sally Massey was dressed in a North Patriot’s T-shirt printed for the championship-contending team. Most of those cheering for the team were also wearing Patriot garb.

The players have all remained very calm despite the big game on the horizon, said Hans Eilbracht, whose son Jonathan is a also a senior. Hans Eilbracht was holding a sign bearing his son’s name and wearing a North Patriot ball cap.

Most of the players on the North team have experience in big games, Eilbracht said. North’s coaches also understand high-pressure settings, he said. Assistant coach Fay Spetter was a standout catcher for the North team that won the state title in 1974.

“They’ve been in some big games before,” Eilbracht said. “They’re not intimidated by it being a state championship game.”

Is dad more nervous about the game than the son?

“Absolutely,” Eilbracht said.

Not only did a torrential rain take place just before the North Vigo team headed east to Indianapolis, the air was thick with humidity. Nevertheless, dozens of fans cheered as team rolled by escorted by police vehicles with lights flashing and sirens chirping.

Kelsey Booth, younger sister of North second baseman Keaton Booth, said she is excited for her brother, but also said it was a sad occasion because it will be his last high school game. Booth, like several of his teammates, is a senior. Diana Jones, Booth’s grandmother, was also at the park supporting the local team.

Many of the fans cheering the North squad said they were also headed to the big game later in the day.

Strong support from fans is one thing. But the North squad also enjoys good friendships between the players, many fans have said.

“They are so close,” said Sally Massey after the bus disappeared down Wabash Avenue. “They are the best group of kids you would ever hope to be around.”

Reporter Arthur Foulkes can be reached at 812-231-4232 or arthur.foulkes@tribstar.com.

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