INDIANAPOLIS — In pursuit of what will be the 27th sectional championship between them, New Palestine and Brebeuf Jesuit have to wait another day to add to their stocked trophy cases.
Inclement weather forced the suspension of play between the Dragons (20-9) and Braves (22-6) – gunning for their 15th and 13th sectional crowns, respectively – in the Class 3A Sectional 26 championship game Monday evening at Bishop Chatard.
The contest resumes at 5 p.m. today with New Palestine (the home team on the scoreboard) leading 4-3 in the bottom of the fourth. The Dragons’ Connor Swain is at the plate with no count and no outs. Nick Butcher is on second base and Cameron Clark on first.
The FieldTurf playing surface at Chatard’s Dave Alexander Field allowed the teams to play through the near-constant rain Monday, save for a six-minute delay in the bottom of the second. However, a lightning sighting necessitated the required 30-minute delay in the home half of the fourth before the line of thunderstorms that made its way through Central Indiana Monday evening proved too much to overcome.
NP coach Shawn Lyons agreed with the decision to suspend the game, especially considering there was a decent chance that had the game been resumed, it likely would have been postponed to today because of heavy rain or darkness. Dave Alexander Field does not have lights.
“It was dark anyway and we didn’t want to resume after a half-hour wait, have to use another pitcher and then have it get suspended because of darkness. It makes sense to come back (today),” Lyons said. “I told the kids, ‘We didn’t get the greatest draw; we overcame that. Now we have to overcome this.’ Hopefully we can score some runs and get nine outs.”
The Dragons, bumped down to 3A this spring because of the IHSAA’s tradition factor, advanced to Monday’s sectional final after downing Chatard 10-0 in five innings Thursday and handling Guerin Catholic 11-1 in five frames in Saturday’s first semifinal.
Brebeuf, winners of six straight 3A sectional crowns, had a quarterfinal bye before cruising past Indianapolis Herron 15-0 in five innings Saturday.
NP, having allowed a single run in 24 innings to Sectional 26 competition through two regular season and four postseason tilts entering Monday, yielded three runs in a rough first inning against Brebeuf.
The Braves scored three runs on three hits in the opening frame off NP starter Cameron Clark, gaining the first two runs on RBI hits by Ben Powell and Marshall Farren. Eric Petruzzi came across to score the third run from second base on a wild pitch. On the wild pitch, the Dragons’ catcher thought he heard the umpire signal for a foul ball – instead of the ruling on the field, which was a swinging strike – and Petruzzi came around to score after NP didn’t retrieve the ball in time.
The Dragons responded in the home half of the first. Logan Gilvin plated Butcher with a two-out RBI single, but NP wound up leaving the bases loaded.
After both squads were scoreless in the second, the Dragons hung a crooked number in the third inning.
Swain led off with a double off the base of the left-field wall. Steven Clark then executed a successful sacrifice bunt, but Powell’s throw to first went into the outfield, sending Swain to third and Clark to second.
After a disputed strikeout call argued strongly by Lyons to both the second base and home plate umpires, Gilvin plated Swain with a sacrifice fly. Jason Hall-Manley followed with a double off the bottom of center-field wall, scoring Clark. Evan Hickman then came up and plated Hall-Manley with a flare to right field, giving NP a 4-3 lead.
In the top of the fourth, Cameron Clark pitched around an error to retire Brebeuf. After Powell plunked Butcher for the second time to begin the home half of the fourth, new Braves’ hurler Spencer Martin walked Cameron Clark. But, before Swain could see a pitch, lightning flashed across the sky.
Cameron Clark, owner of a 2.03 ERA in 20.2 innings pitched coming into Monday, settled down after a tough first inning, allowing an infield single while striking four in the last three innings. Lyons said Clark will not return to pitch today, and is not “100-percent sure” who will toe the mound in the top of the fifth, though he did mention Swain (3.65 ERA), Evan Vance (2.81 ERA) and Andy Edwards (.297 ERA) as possible options.
“Once he settled down, he pitched fine,” Lyons said of Clark. “He really showed a nice demeanor. He didn’t get frustrated and kept calm after the first inning.”
Swain was the star Saturday against Guerin, throwing five innings of three-hit, one-run ball while going 4-for-4 at the plate with three RBI and a run scored. On April 16 against Guerin, Swain threw seven shutout innings in the Dragons’ 3-0 win, scattering four hits and fanning six.
After scoring nine second-inning runs in Thursday’s 10-0 quarterfinal victory over Chatard, the NP bats were hot early and often vs. Guerin, tallying seven runs in the first two frames. Butcher (2-for-4, three runs scored), Keegan Watson (double, run, three RBI) and Steven Clark (hit, two runs) and also contributed to the NP attack.
“Connor was really down in the zone Saturday, and he was down in the zone with velocity. And, he had a curveball working. He kind of overmatched Guerin. He controlled all facets of Guerin’s offense,” Lyons said. “He’s seeing the ball well at the plate. It’s good for us that he’s going to be first up at the plate (today).”
The New Palestine-Brebeuf winner advances to Saturday’s Crawfordsville Regional to play the victor of the North Montgomery Sectional – either No. 2 Lebanon (20-3) or Frankfort (20-6) – at 11 a.m. in a semifinal contest. The North Montgomery Sectional championship failed to get underway Monday because of the inclement weather and was postponed to today at 6 p.m.
Prior to the game’s suspension, the red and white were engaged in a much closer battle than when it blanked the Braves 11-0 in five innings on May 19 behind a no-hitter by Swain.
“They were hit with a right cross and didn’t flinch. They caught a bad break with a bad call and didn’t flinch,” Lyons said of his squad. “…We’ve been playing our best baseball the last two and half, three weeks. We still have nine outs to go and anything can happen.”
Notes: The Crawfordsville Regional winner plays the Jasper Regional victor in a one-game semistate at either Jasper or Plainfield June 14. …New Palestine has five regional titles; Brebeuf has three.
Class 3A Sectional 26 Semifinal
At Chatard, Saturday
New Palestine 11, Guerin Catholic 1
SCORE BY INNINGS R H E
NP (20-9) 520 22 — 11 9 1
GC (12-15) 000 10 — 1 3 3
WP: Swain (4-3). LP: Buehler (6-4).
GC: Labus R; Glaze H.
NP: Swain 5 IP, 3 K, 1 ER, W, 4-4, 3 RBI, R; Butcher 2-4, 3 R, S. Clark H, 2 R; Watson 2B, R, 3 RBI.