The cream of the crop from the sports year that was in Hancock County. Sports editor Brian Harmon and sportswriter Grant Freking select their favorite prep moments.
BRIAN: New Pal baseball regional walk-off
The walk-off home run is sport’s ultimate play. The kickoff return for a touchdown and a buzzer-beating 3-pointer are exciting stuff, to be sure. But nothing quite matches the combination of finality, power and majesty of a bottom-of-the-seventh (in high school) game-winning swing. Jacob Barnes came up with several contest-altering home runs this season for the NP baseball team, but none bigger than the two-run walk-off home run he hit to give the Dragons an 11-9 win over Jeffersonville at historic Bosse Field in Evansville June 2. New Palestine, as it did all season, refused to quit vs. Jeffersonville. NP trailed 2-0 in the first inning and 6-4 in the fourth, the surrendered a 9-6 lead in the top of the seventh, only to come back each time.
Runner-up: The shot put competition at the Warren Central Track and Field Sectional, won by Greenfield-Central sophomore Tyler Beeson.
GRANT: EH’s miracle rally
Aaron Spaulding’s team was in big trouble late in the fourth quarter of their sectional semifinal game against Cambridge City Lincoln. Both Victor Vincz (concussion) and Jared Pyle (fouls) were out of the game. Then, Garrett Hancock (arm raised) — playing in place of Vincz — sank five three throws in a single trip to the charity stripe, Cody Wallace shut down Zak Rea (21 points in the first half) after intermission and the Royals scored an improbable 71-64 victory. EH rallied with a cast of bench players and junior varsity fill-ins with little to none varsity experience. Afterwards, Spaulding wept tears of joy, saying he’d never been prouder of a team than he was that night.
Runner-up: Justin Ikerd 3, Josh Penley steal, Michael Morris FTs lead NP boys’ hoops to last-minute win at Franklin Central, Dec. 17.
BEST MALE ATHLETE
BRIAN: G-C goalkeeper Collin Kleckner
Sitting down to hammer out this Best of the Best list, my thoughts kept returning to one sport, one group of young men: Greenfield-Central boys’ soccer. The Cougars’ sectional title team could have easily filled a handful of categories, including Best Surprise, Best Coach and Best Team (and they still might), but there’s no question that the heart of this inspiring unit was senior netminder Collin Kleckner (above, in orange). G-C’s keeper set program records for fewest goals allowed in a season (13) and most shutouts (10) while leading the Cougars to a 2-1 (PK) sectional semifinal win over Shelbyville and — with the loudest soccer crowd I’ve ever witnessed cheering them on — a 2-1 championship win over New Palestine.
Runner-up: Connor Simmons, quarterback of the No. 1-ranked New Palestine football team.
GRANT: NP tri-athlete Reid Clark
Clark won seven sectional titles in his four years at New Palestine, three of which came in the 2011-12 school year. In October, Clark captured an individual tennis championship in his first season as a singles’ player. He started at center for the back-to-back sectional-winning boys’ basketball teams. Lastly, Clark was the No. 2 starter and clean-up hitter for the Dragon baseball team that advanced to semistate. The Hanover College tennis recruit was always thoughtful in victory and defeat, part of the reason why Clark penned the Daily Reporter’s Athlete Perspective columns in the winter.
Runner-up: Matt Dickerson, record-setting Greenfield-Central track star also scored 10 TDs and snared 5 INTs for football team.