iNDIANAPOLIS — After a nearly two-decade drought, Eastern Hancock finally made it back.
Cruising to their first sectional finals appearance since 1999, the Royals came out swinging Monday against Heritage Christian in the Sectional 42 championship but ran out of gas in a 15-5 six-inning loss.
The host Eagles, who won their fourth-straight sectional title, limited Eastern Hancock’s offense to just five hits to earn a spot in the Park Tudor Regional. Heritage Christian ace Lake Webb struck out four batters to earn the win.
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The Royals (15-11), who beat Triton Central 4-3 and Irvington Prep 26-0 to make it to the sectional final, were led by Devin Denny and Addison True, who each doubled in the loss. The 15 wins also tied a school record set last season.
Andrew Knoblock replaced Clayton White with two outs in the third inning as White earned the loss for Eastern Hancock. White led the team with seven wins this season as Knoblock finished with a team-high 46 strikeouts. Devin Denny threw the final inning.
A 12-0 hole heading into the fourth inning was simply too much to overcome despite a late Royals rally.
“Our boys continued to compete,” Eastern Hancock head coach Chad Coughenour said. “We told ourselves we were going to be as aggressive as we needed to be today. He’s (Webb) a good thrower. We just hit some balls right at people.”
The Eagles (14-8) got on the board early in the top half of the first inning after No. 3 hitter Austin Crouse sent a White fastball over the left-center field fence. With Everett Laughlin already on base after drawing a walk, Heritage Christian took a 2-0 lead and later extended it to three thanks to a Webb RBI single to centerfield.
Laughlin helped his team again in the second, scoring Miles Furnish, who reached on a double for a 4-0 lead. After sending Eastern Hancock down in order in consecutive innings, the Eagles scored eight more times in the third off six hits for a commanding 12-0 advantage.
After Denny led off the fourth frame with the aforementioned double, Royals’ senior Garek Ferguson ripped a single past the second baseman to score his teammate for the team’s first run of the game. They brought another run across when senior Dwight Duzan scored Ferguson with another single, this one to centerfield.
True would lead off the fifth inning with a double and scored when Levi Majority single to centerfield. With the bases loaded and no outs, Eastern Hancock managed two more runs when A.J. Muegge drew a walk and Ferguson grounded out in a close call at first base.
Ferguson finished 1-for-3 with two RBIs as the Royals were unable to score in the sixth and final inning of play. The Eagles added three insurance runs in the sixth.
“They (Heritage Christian) are very well coached and their record is a little deceiving,” Coughenour said of the Eagles, who play a large majority of tough Indianapolis area schools.
Heritage Christian, which received votes in the final regular season Class 2A poll, was led at the plate by Joe Geiger’s 3-for-4 effort. He finished with four RBIs.
After beginning its season 1-5, Eastern Hancock finished strong to win 14 of its final 20 games, including a season-best six-game winning streak. It finished 7-2 in Mid-Hoosier conference play, as well, for a third-place finish behind Indian Creek and Knightstown.
The Royals were the only MHC team to beat Indian Creek this year.
Senior Tom Barton led the team in hits, RBIs and average during the regular season while Ferguson was not far behind. Duzan, who collected six doubles this year, will also be lost to graduation as the Royals return six starters.
The senior class improved from just two wins its freshman season.
“Really hardworking group,” Coughenour said. “I am really proud of them.
“The support we had tonight was great too. It meant a lot.”
Heritage Christian 15, Eastern Hancock 5
HCHS (14-8);318;003;x; -;15;17;1
EHHS (15-11);000;230;x; -;5;5;0
WP: Webb (HC). LP: White (7-2).
RBI: Crouse 2, Geiger 4, Laughlin, Schlosser, Furnish, Brehm 3, Flinn, Wynja (HC). Ferguson 2, Duzan, Majority, Muegge (EH). 2B: Furnish 2, Geiger, Wynja (HC). Denny, True (EH). 3B: Geiger (HC). HR: Crouse, Brehm (HC). SB: Laughlin, Cobb (HC).
EH: Denny double, True double, Ferguson two RBIs, Duzan RBI.