TERRE HAUTE —
The Riley 12-and-under baseball all-stars entered Monday evening’s Central Indiana Cal Ripken championship game with a 3-0 record in the tournament being played at their home complex.
But that was before they faced Connersville.
Connersville, which had lost to Whiteland in pool play earlier in the tourney, uncorked three home runs in the middle innings Monday and defeated Riley 10-2 to capture the state title and earn the right to compete in the Ohio Valley Regional later this month at Elizabethtown, Ky.
“Our batting was really good and we played real good defense behind our great pitching,” Connersville manager Keith Gibson assessed afterward. “Everybody played well.”
Gibson knew his team accomplished something special because Riley had come in looking like a powerhouse, having defeated its previous opponents 11-1 in five innings, 7-1 and 10-3.
“They’re a very good team,” Gibson said of the Riley all-stars. “We came in thinking it would be a little closer game.”
From the Riley perspective, manager Bryan Duncan gave Connersville credit for playing well enough to chalk up the victory.
“We ran into a better team today,” he admitted. “We played well all tournament… I’m very pleased with their effort. We improved dramatically from just last weekend.”
After two scoreless innings, Connersville erupted for four runs in the third.
Neil Faught led off with a single and Dylan Webber walked, setting the table for Garrett Silcott’s three-run homer that barely cleared the left-field fence. Then Noah Gibson reached base on an error and Chance Clark singled. One out later, Nash Hentz’s groundout plated Gibson from third.
Riley answered with a run of its own in the bottom of the third when Dylan Schneider beat out an infield single, advanced to second on a passed ball, advanced to third on a groundout and scored on a groundout by Carson Kline.
But Connersville poured on six runs in the fourth, boosting its advantage to 10-1.
A bases-loaded walk to Noah Gibson brought in the first run of the frame. After a fielder’s choice, cleanup-hitting Tanner Crowe bashed a grand-slam homer well beyond the left-center fence and Hentz followed with a solo shot that bounced off a car behind the center-field fence.
Clark, who had relieved starting pitcher Crowe in the third, didn’t allow another Riley run until the bottom of the sixth when Kaleb Hauptli dumped a single into right to send home Matt Wilson, who had singled earlier in the inning.
Player of the Game awards were given for both teams — Hentz for Connersville and Wilson for Riley.
In the 11-and-under game Monday evening on a different diamond at Riley, Irvington captured the state championship by defeating Connersville 5-2.
Connersville 004 600 — 10 9 1
Riley 001 001 — 2 8 2
Crowe, Clark (3) and Hentz; Joy, Duncan (3), Trump (4), Joy (5) and McCoskey, Hauptli (4). W — Clark. L — Duncan. HR — C: Silcott, Crowe, Hentz.
Highlights — For Connersville, Garrett Silcott went 2 for 4 with a 3-run homer in the 3rd inning and 2 runs scored, Tanner Crowe hit a grand-slam homer in the 4th, Nash Hentz went 2 for 4 with a solo homer in the 4th and 2 RBIs, Neil Faught went 2 for 3, winning pitcher Chance Clark went 2 for 4 with 2 stolen bases and Noah Gibson scored 2 runs. For Riley, Matt Wilson went 2 for 2 with a hit-by-pitch and Trevor Trump went 2 for 4 with a double and 2 stolen bases.
Next — Connersville will compete in the Ohio Valley Regional, which starts July 25 at Elizabethtown, Ky.