INDIANAPOLIS — A sectional full of late-inning heroics saw New Palestine provide a three-run rally to take the lead.
But the Cathedral Irish had one more rally in them, scoring three in the top of the seventh to beat the Dragons 5-3 in the championship game of the Class 4A Warren Central sectional.
The game was a matchup between two of Central Indiana’s top teams, a Cathedral squad that had been ranked No. 1 early in the year, and a seventh-ranked New Palestine team that had been as high as No. 2 in the IHSBCA poll. It lived up to the billing, with two starting pitchers making numerous big pitches early and the two offenses providing two-out heroics late.
New Palestine finishes its season 22-7, having won the Hoosier Heritage Conference championship. Cathedral is 20-8.
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“If you wanted to watch good baseball, you saw outstanding baseball today,” New Palestine coach Shawn Lyons said. “Cathedral won the game — we didn’t lose it. We played error-free defense. It was just a fun atmosphere to be involved with. I’m proud to be involved in a game like this. To get to the sectional championship game and lose is painful, but it’s better to have loved and lost than not loved at all.”
The Dragons rallied from a 2-0 deficit in the bottom of the sixth. They had one hit through five innings, but Grant Wiegand ignited a rally with a one-out single. Nick Rusche walked to bring the go-ahead run to the plate. With two outs, Jack Walker and Jacob Garrison each hit two-strike pitches for singles to tie the game. A single by Cameron Pitzer loaded the bases.
After fouling off several pitches, Jacob Bain brought in the go-ahead run with a bases-loaded walk. A grounder on a close play ended the inning to limit the threat, but the three-run, four-hit frame got the Dragons three outs from a sectional title.
But Jared Poland opened the inning by hitting his ninth homer to tie the game. Cathedral catcher Collin Greene legged out an infield hit on a weakly-hit groundball, An errant pickoff attempt allowed his courtesy runner to advance to third. New Palestine starter Jacob Garrison hit his IHSAA-mandated 120-pitch limit striking out Evan Uhland for the second out of the inning, but a walk and hit batter loaded the bases.
Cathedral’s Mitch Bertrand followed with a two-run single on a 3-2 pitch to center to plate the eventual winning runs.
Wiegand again had a one-out single in the bottom of the inning, but a popout and a grounder to short ended the Dragons’ season.
Cathedral scored its five runs on nine hits. The Dragons had six hits, with four coming in the three-run sixth. Wiegand and Pitzer had two hits each.
Garrison (6-1) battled through 6 2/3 innings, scattering eight hits and four runs. He struck out four, pitching around traffic much of the game. He induced a double play to end the first scoreless after the Irish led off with back-to-back singles. In the third, he pitched around two walks.
Cathedral got single runs in the fourth and fifth, with leadoff walks leading to RBI singles, but Garrison limited the scoring by stranding two each inning. After allowing the homer and the single, he induced back-to-back outs with the go-ahead run on third in the seventh before yielding to Pitzer.
“If it wasn’t for the pitch count, he would’ve finished that inning out,” Lyons said. “He didn’t want to come out. Jacob didn’t have the command of the slider and curveball he had (Wednesday) against Lawrence Central. That’s pitching. One day you’re going to have it, one day you’re not. He learned how to pitch not having his best stuff. I’m really proud of him for that. He kept us in the game. We were three outs away against the defending state champions.”
Despite falling short, the Dragons showed their usual resilience in rallying to take the lead in the sixth. It’s what New Palestine had done all season, starting in the fall when they lost two pitchers — including projected No. 1 starter Kyle Gardner — to injuries.
“It started back in August and September, when we found out Kyle (Gardner) and another senior, Tyler Swain, couldn’t play,” Lyons said. “Our kids buckled up. This isn’t the most talented team we’ve had, but it’s a close-knit group, chemistry-wise. They came to practice every day and made it fun for our coaching staff. They fought all year.
“We had a couple of rough spots — we played Fishers, Roncalli and Zionsville in a 10-day period. It’s a credit to our coaching staff … they are a godsend in terms of assistant coaches to have. I don’t know how talented we’ll be, but with this staff, we’ll be the best we can be with the talent.”