CRAWFORDSVILLE — One is a future hurler for college baseball power Vanderbilt University. The other hadn’t yielded a run in three weeks.
New Palestine faced two ace starting pitchers Saturday at the Crawfordsville Regional – and knocked both from the game.
In continuing its season-long offensive onslaught Saturday, NP also received sterling performances from three pitchers to claim its sixth regional championship. The Dragons (23-9) followed a 6-4 semifinal edging of Class 3A No. 2 Lebanon with a 4-0 blanking of Edgewood in the championship game.
NP advances to Saturday’s Plainfield Semistate to face No. 9 Gibson Southern (23-7) at 1 p.m. With a victory, the Dragons will play the victor of No. 1 Andrean (29-4) and Fort Wayne Bishop Dwenger (19-11) for the 3A state championship either Friday, June 20 or Saturday, June 21 at Victory Field in Indianapolis.
“A lot of kids contributed,” said third-year Dragons’ coach Shawn Lyons, who has guided the red and white to the semistate round for the second time in his three seasons as coach. “I’m really happy. Every program works hard, and I understand that, but it’s nice for these kids who work really hard and they have something to show for it this year.”
In the title game Saturday, NP senior right-hander Evan Vance delivered his second complete-game shutout of the season, using timely defensive maneuvers to evade trouble the few times he found himself in it.
Vance held the Mustangs (24-7) to two hits through four innings, getting a 6-4-3 double play to end the bottom of the second.
In the home half of the fifth, Vance retired the first two batters quickly – the second out coming by way of the pitcher covering first on a 4-3 putout – but then hit back-to-back batters. Visibly frustrated with himself, Vance collected a brief meeting on the mound with Lyons before settling in to face Michael Allender.
Before attempting to retire Allender, Vance and Dragon shortstop Nick Butcher noticed that pinch runner Tad Carter – the winning pitcher in Edgewood’s 2-1 semifinal victory over Beech Grove – was a bit too liberal with his lead off second base.
In one motion, Butcher broke for second and Vance spun around and threw. The ball met the inside of Butcher’s glove, and Carter was out by a sizable margin. Threat over.
“Me and Butcher have a little signal,” said Vance, who recorded his team-best 11th pickoff. “When we think we can get him, we’re going to try and get him. It’s just that connection.”
Vance was the beneficiary of another defensive gem by NP in the sixth inning. Allender led off with a single, then attempted to tag up from first on a fly out to Dragon left fielder Jason Hall-Manley. The sophomore outfielder caught the ball near the warning track, then threw a seed to second base to easily nail Allender.
“Those were big plays,” Lyons said of the pickoff and rare 7-4 putout.
Offensively, NP (.337 team batting average) mixed patience and timeliness against Mustang starter Ben Krouse, who entered unscored upon in his last 18.1 innings dating back to May 17.
After a line-drive double play ended the Dragons’ two-on and one-out threat in the first, they cracked Krouse in the second. Evan Hickman plated Keegan Watson with a sacrifice fly, though NP did leave the bases loaded.
Krouse, who finished with five walks, had his wildness caught up to him in the sixth.
Connor Swain and Steven Clark reached on a single and an error to begin the frame, and both moved into scoring position on a wild pitch. Watson clubbed a two-run double down the left-field line shortly thereafter, pushing the Dragons’ lead to 3-0. After a walk to Logan Gilvin, Krouse’s night was over. The right-hander allowed four runs on five hits in five innings.
Hickman added another run with an RBI fielder’s choice later in the sixth off Ryan Pursell.
When Vance finished off the Mustangs in the seventh amid a steady drizzle, he flung his glove high into the air and disappeared into the Dragons’ second dog pile in five days – the first took place after the team’s Sectional 26 triumph over Brebeuf Jesuit June 3.
“I felt pretty good coming into it. It was a nice environment,” said Vance, who also shut out Pendleton Heights over seven innings of work on May 16. He also became the first pitcher to hold Edgewood scoreless all season. “I kind of lived up to it. I felt really good and was 100 percent.”
In the first game against Lebanon, NP jumped on sophomore Reid Schaller, a Vanderbilt commit.
Cameron Clark doubled in the top of the first and his courtesy runner, Zach Biddle, scored on a Steven Clark single.
A groundout by Hickman and a sacrifice fly by Tyler Woodcock pushed the Dragons’ lead to 3-0 through two innings.
Schaller, who entered with a 1.77 ERA, set down nine of the next 11 hitters after Hall-Manley’s second-inning double.
But, NP hit pay dirt again in the fifth, netting an RBI double by Swain and a two-run two-bagger by Gilvin to turn what was a one-run game into a more comfortable advantage at 6-3. Schaller was chased after Gilvin’s double.
After his 2-for-4 performance against Lebanon, Gilvin was seven for his last 13 with six RBI.
“He started off slow. It’s tough, and we’ve got experience at first and third base, and he couldn’t work his way into the lineup,” Lyons said of Gilvin, a junior. “He just knocked the door down. We have to find a place for him to play because he’s been hitting the bejesus out of the ball.”
Gilvin, who made his first varsity start at first base in the nightcap Saturday, credited the age-old baseball axiom of “see the ball, hit the ball” for his success.
“It’s worked out for me and a two-strike approach has come in handy for me when I’ve needed it, and it’s been great,” Gilvin said. “It’s a team; it’s not just me. I’m contributing just like everyone else.”
Cameron Clark pitched into the seventh inning for the Dragons before Andy Edwards – having last pitched on May 16 – came on for his first save. NP’s hurlers have given up just seven earned runs over in their past 38 innings pitched.
“You can’t say enough about our pitching staff,” Lyons said. “It’s come together.”
During the first year of their two-year run in 4A in 2012, the Dragons advanced to the Plainfield Semistate state only to lose 8-3 to eventual state runner-up Roncalli.
“It was my freshman year when they went to semistate, so I wasn’t included,” Gilvin said. “But I was there watching and this whole time I’ve wanted it for the seniors to get back and finish it this time.”
Notes: Shakamak (25-6) and Vincennes Rivet (21-7) will follow New Palestine-Gibson Southern in a Class A semistate battle. ... Edgewood was searching for its third regional title (2007, 2011). … Andrean and Fort Wayne Bishop Dwenger play at the Plymouth Semistate Saturday. First pitch is 1 p.m. … NP’s lone semistate title came in 2004. It went on to win the 3A state championship. … The Dragons other regional crowns came in 1994, 2003-04 and 2010.
Class 3A Regional Championship
At Crawfordsville, Saturday
New Palestine 4, Edgewood 0
SCORE BY INNINGS R H E
NP (23-9) 010 003 0 — 4 6 0
EW (24-7) 000 000 0 — 0 4 0
WP: Vance (6-3). LP: Krouse (8-2).
NP: Vance W, 7 IP, 4 K, 4 H, 1 BB, 2 HBP, 1 PO; Watson 2-3, R, 2B, 2 RBI; Hickman 0-2, 2 RBI; Butcher 1-3, BB, SB; Swain 1-3, R, BB; Gilvin 1-2, 2 BB.
EW: Kolbe 2-3; Krouse 5 IP, 5 H, 4 R, 2 K, 5 BB.
Class 3A Regional Semifinal
At Crawfordsville, Saturday
New Palestine 6, Lebanon 4
SCORE BY INNINGS R H E
NP 120 030 0 — 6 7 3
LE (25-4) 010 200 1 — 4 10 1
WP: C. Clark (4-1). LP: Schaller (9-2). SV: Edwards (1).
LE: Shearer HR, 2 RBI; Ranney 2-4, RBI, R; Bennett 2-4; Schaller 4.2 IP, 6 R, 4 ER, 3 K, 3 BB; Team 11 LOB.
NP: C. Clark 6 IP, 8 H, 7 K, 3 BB, 4 ER; Swain 2-4, 2B, RBI; S. Clark 1-2 RBI, R; Gilvin 2-4, 2B, 2 RBI; Hall-Manley 1-3 2B; Hickman RBI; Woodcock SAC FLY, RBI.
The complete semistate schedule
Date: Saturday, June 14, 2014.
Times: 1 pm with second game to follow.
Home Team: The winner of the even-numbered regional in each pairing is the designated home team.
1. Kokomo (Highland Park)
Class A | Washington Township (23-8) vs. Rockville (27-3) | 1 pm ET
Class 2A | Lafayette Central Catholic (27-6) vs. Wapahani (28-4) | To follow
Class 3A | Andrean (29-4) vs. Fort Wayne Bishop Dwenger (19-11) | 1 pm ET
Class 4A | Lake Central (23-10) vs. Noblesville (27-8) | To follow
Class 3A | New Palestine (23-9) vs. Gibson Southern (23-7) | 1 pm ET
Class A | Shakamak (25-6) vs. Vincennes Rivet (21-7) | To follow
4. Jasper (Ruxer Field)
Class 2A | Indianapolis Cardinal Ritter (22-7) vs. Evansville Mater Dei (22-9) | 1 pm ET
Class 4A | Terre Haute North (24-7) vs. Castle (24-8) | To follow