News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Sports

May 22, 2013

Valley baseball teams have been keeping busy heading into sectionals

North, South to meet tonight in first round

TERRE HAUTE — When high school baseball sectionals begin around the Wabash Valley today, one complaint that’s not expected to be heard from any coach is that his team has had too much time off.

Postponements earlier in the spring have been made up at a furious pace the last week or so. Terre Haute South played on Monday, West Vigo on both Monday and Tuesday — as well as six games in as many days the week before.

“They’re going to be used to getting ready for a ballgame,” coach Steve DeGroote of the Vikings said of his players, who open Class 3A sectional play at home against Brown County at 5:30 p.m. today. “There’s been no letdown [because of the busy schedule]; the kids love playing.”

Letdowns aren’t expected from the players at Terre Haute North or Terre Haute South either. They play each other at 5:30 p.m. today, the winner expected to take the favorite’s role for the Class 4A sectional that will be played at South.

“If you want to be the best, you’ve got to beat the best,” coach Kyle Kraemer of the Braves said in looking forward to that game. “North’s probably the best team in the sectional.” South is trying to win a sectional for the sixth time in seven years, having a five-year streak snapped last year by Northview.

“Obviously playing against Terre Haute South in tournament play has not been one of our more successful ventures,” coach Shawn Turner of the Patriots said. “They’re a good team and they’re peaking at the right time.”

Sectional outcomes can’t do anything but hurt the overall Vigo County high school baseball winning percentage. The three teams have combined to win approximately 80 percent of the time, with each having a loss to a county foe, and obviously at least one will lose this week.

North and South split their Metropolitan Interscholastic Conference games with each other — the Patriots haven’t lost a nonconference game all season — with North’s highlight being a 10-inning stint by pitcher Austin Hicks that ended one game and completed the other.

“Everybody knows we’re going to throw Hicks [tonight],” said Turner. “[The Braves] have three [pitchers] who are pretty strong, so we’ll have to prepare for all three.”

One team that will have plenty of rest before its tournament debut is Northview. The Knights are in South’s bye bracket against Plainfield and don’t play until Monday. Although the Knights aren’t having the success they usually enjoy, they are capable of repeating as sectional champs.

“If it’s not North or South, Northview wins,” Turner predicted. “They’ve got the best situation of all of us.”

The situation at the West Vigo Sectional involves Edgewood lefty Reece Phillips, an Indiana-bound senior. He’s not only the biggest arm in the tournament, he’s also the only pitcher in it that’s beaten the host Vikings — and if he’s saved tonight for a potential Thursday game, he wouldn’t be much help in Saturday night’s championship game.

The Vikings have pitching of their own — a team earned run average of something like 1.20, DeGroote said — and support their arms with outstanding defense. They are also not at full strength, however — both outfielder Cade Lindsey and catcher Austin Wallace are questionable — and won their earlier games against Brown County without seeing the Eagles’ best pitcher.

“I look forward to seeing what happens,” DeGroote said. “To win a sectional you’ve got to be on a roll, and I think our kids are doing that right now … everybody else will have to pick it up [for the injured players], and so far they have.”

Other sectionals this week at Linton and Rockville appear at least as unpredictable as the ones at South and West Vigo. The team that’s the biggest favorite is Shakamak, which hosts its own Class A sectional in what the Lakers hope is the start of another run to Victory Field for the championship game.

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