South Vermillion was clinging to a one-run lead in the sixth inning of the Class 2A Park Tudor Regional semifinal for high school baseball Saturday afternoon.
Starting pitcher Connor VanLannen had given the Wildcats all he could in the second game, yet Speedway had the tying and go-ahead runs on first and second base with only one out when South Vermillion coach Tim Terry came to the mound.
"I think Connor got a little tired there at the end. Isaac [Wanninger] came in and did a great job" Terry said.
Terry handed the ball to Wanninger and left the mound. He knew the game was in good hands. Wanninger fielded a surprise bunt for the first out, then struck out the next three batters and induced a groundball to second to end the game.
"That's a tough situation to come into. He's been there before and he's done it before. I was happy at this point also," Terry said.
Wanninger's closing performance capped a 2-1 victory that sent the Wildcats into the 2A regional championship game for the second year in a row. The 24-6 Wildcats were slated to play Indianapolis Scecina in the championship game Saturday night. Scecina upset No.1-ranked Hagerstown in the regional opener earlier in the day.
South Vermillion's afternoon victory was all about pitching and defense. Speedway's Jeffrey Bryant held the Wildcats to two hits and struck out 10 before being relieved in the sixth. VanLannen scattered five Speedway hits before moving to shortstop.
South Vermillion scored first in the fourth when Cooper Terry led off with a single, Layne Vicars reached base on a catcher's interference and both runners moved up on a wild pitch. Young Terry then scored on another wild pitch.
The Wildcats took the lead in the fifth when VanLannen led off with a walk, was sacrifice bunted to second by Blake Boatman and scored on a single up the middle by Bryce McLeish.
"The kids played with a lot of heart. They had to when you get to this point in the tournament," Tim Terry said.
The Wildcats had a chance to add two in the sixth when Brycen Dalbey received a one-out walk and moved to second on a wild pitch and to third on an infield single by VanLannen, who immediately stole second base. But both became part of the Wildcats' 10 men left on base.
"Pitching came through for us, defense came through. We won this game on defense really and the offense came through with some big plays. But the defense actually kept us in the game," Terry said.