Clinching a Share: Marauders seize HHC title; King wins 300th

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After hitting a home run, Mt. Vernon’s Konnor Scheidt, right, gets a forearm bump from head coach Brad King as he rounds the bases during their game on April 19, 2022 at Mt. Vernon High School.

Rob Baker | Daily Reporter

FORTVILLE — The scenario on Tuesday night was nearly identical from a year ago for the Mt. Vernon Marauders, and it resulted in a similar result.

Tied with Yorktown, 2-2, in the bottom of the eighth inning, Mt. Vernon faced a must-win situation during its two-game series opener — and the Hoosier Heritage Conference title on the line.

Much like in 2021, when Eli Bridenthal stole home against Yorktown in the series finale to walk-off a 5-4 victory to claim an outright HHC crown, the Marauders needed a clutch performance.

They found one, again, and in the process helped their head coach, Brad King, reach a significant milestone.

Landon Clark opened the inning with a lead-off single, followed by a hit-by-pitch that put Konnor Scheidt on base. Gavin Sullivan stepped up to the plate next, coincidentally the same player up to bat when Bridenthal scored the winning run in 2021.

“Gavin was at the plate last year when Eli took the wild pitch and stole home,” King said. “I was thinking, this is pretty neat. Gavin can get the game-winning hit this year. I actually told him that, and he hit a sacrifice fly and moved Landon to third, then Russell (Weaver) came through in a big spot.”

A walk-off single by Weaver locked down the Marauders’ 3-2 win, giving Mt. Vernon a share of the HHC title and coach King his 300th career victory.

“We had the exact same scenario last year against Yorktown. They came into our place, and it was a tight game, so yeah, it’s kind of fitting, but we’ve done a really nice job these last few weeks of just playing really well and being a team,” King said. “We’ve been getting clutch hits, and it’s been different guys.”

Timely hitting and a New Palestine 9-4 win over New Castle on Tuesday moved Mt. Vernon into sole possession of first place in the HHC.

Mt. Vernon stands at 13-8 overall and 11-2 in the conference, while New Castle dropped to 13-4-1 and 10-3, which ties them for second with New Palestine at 10-3 in the HHC and 19-5 this season.

All three teams have one more HHC game remaining with both series postponed due to weather on Wednesday night.

If Mt. Vernon sweeps Yorktown on the road tonight in their makeup game, then it will secure its second straight outright HHC title and third since 2009. The Marauders won the championship last year with a 12-2 HHC record.

“Obviously, this group is a lot different than last year’s group, and we actually had that conversation tonight at practice. Since the HHC has gone to this 14-game format, there’s only been two teams to win the conference at 12-2. It was Shelbyville in 2012 and we were 12-2 last year,” King said. “So for us, potentially, to finish 12-2 in back-to-back years and replacing pretty much everybody, of course, we still have some business to take care of with Yorktown. That’s special.”

The Marauders reached the state tournament’s final four last season and won a school record 26 games. The program graduated 10 seniors since, which left only two full-time returners and a handful with varsity experience.

Against Yorktown in their series opener, the revamped Marauders showcased their in-season maturation.

Sullivan, Weaver (2-for-3, double) and Bridenthal (1-for-3) each drove in key runs. Six different Marauders posted the team’s seven hits.

Bridenthal, who logged limited innings as a sophomore in 2021, lived up to his label as team ace, pitching 6.2 innings with six hits scattered, two walks and 12 strikeouts.

Clark earned the win, pitching 1.1 innings with no hits allowed and two strikeouts.

However, the victory that turned the tide unfolded this past Saturday as Mt. Vernon swept New Castle, 5-4, during its rain makeup game at home to pull even atop the standings.

This past weekend, Scheidt was the hero at the plate with two RBI, while Sullivan went 2-for-3 and Clark drove in a run with a triple. Bridenthal was 1-for-3 with an RBI.

On the mound, sophomores Nick Heitman set the tone by lasting 5.1 innings before Nathan Criss pitched in relief through the final 1.2 frames with four strikeouts to garner the win.

“The kids have really done a nice job of meeting that challenge, and you can look at our record and say we’re 13-8 overall, and that’s true, but we play a pretty good schedule, too,” King said. “When we play the Zionsvilles or the Hamilton Southeasterns or Kokomo or West Lafayette Harrison, I’m playing a lot my younger kids and my bench and they’re going out to gain experience. Hopefully, we want that to pay off in the future with confidence.”

It’s paid dividends with Mt. Vernon only losing two HHC games to date. One came against Pendleton Heights, 8-0, on April 27, and the other was against New Palestine, 8-2, on April 20.

Mt. Vernon beat New Palestine in the series opener, 2-1, on April 19.

“That was a really good series with New Pal,” King said. “Now, you look at it, and we got a split with them, and that was pretty good. Had we not got a split, then they would be in the driver seat right now. We still have to take care of business if we want to win this thing outright, but the good thing is we do have a share of the conference championship. But, if we lose, then New Pal and New Castle are playing for a championship themselves.”

From here on out, each Marauders win will further cement King’s standing on the state’s all-time winning list.

The 55th coach to reach 300 career wins, King is among the top-180 with 300 victories or more.

At Mt. Vernon, King has amassed 39 wins in two seasons. The other 261 were obtained over 16 years at New Castle. King owns a 300-202-1 career record with his tie against Delta in 2009. The game was called due to darkness.

At New Castle, King led the Trojans to two North Central Conference titles, including in the program’s last year of affiliation in 2013.

King’s New Castle teams won 20 or more games five times in the programs’ six seasons of reaching the mark all time. His 2014 team won a Class 4A sectional title, and in 2013, New Castle set a school record for wins with 22 en rout to an outright NCC crown.

Mt. Vernon’s HHC title in 2021 was the program’s first outright championship.

“(300 wins) means we’ve had a lot of good players. I’ve had a lot of good assistant coaches that have helped me out from the time I started as a young coach to who I am now. You obviously don’t reach any kind of milestone like that without talented players around you and a good coaching staff,” King said. “It’s a team sport and that’s how we approach it. I feel blessed. It’s a neat thing, but you don’t win without players.”

His players are hoping to hand him a third outright title tonight and possibly his third sectional title by month’s end.

Mt. Vernon hosts their 4A Sectional 9 tournament and will face Pendleton Heights in the opening round on May 25 and possibly rival Greenfield-Central in the semifinals, if they advance.

If New Palestine and Mt. Vernon tie for the HHC, there’s a possibility the two teams could play a third game in a few weeks.

“I have a lot of respect for Shawn (Lyons at New Pal). I’ve coached against him for a lot of years, and he always does a great job with his teams. He’s got them playing at a very high level right now. I know he likes this group, and they’re really good,” King said.

“Who knows what kind of run they can go on? They have a lot of good hitters, are very talented and have a couple of nice pitchers. They host regional this year, so not that we’re looking past sectional, but they could win their sectional and we could maybe meet in the championship of the regional. It’s not something that couldn’t happen.”

Dragons keep streak alive

The New Palestine Dragons are arguably one of the hottest baseball teams in the state, and they aren’t slowing down.

At a modest 6-5 overall three weeks ago, head coach Shawn Lyons’ Dragons have caught fire by winning 13 consecutive games.

The Dragons’ streak began with a 7-5 win over rival Greenfield-Central on April 27 to split their two-game Hoosier Heritage Conference series and has them in position to potentially share the league title with Mt. Vernon (13-8, 11-2).

New Palestine (19-5, 10-3) defeated former HHC front-runner New Castle (13-4-1, 10-3) at home, 9-4, on Tuesday to open their two-game series.

The win pushed the Dragons into a two-way tie for second place with New Castle in the HHC standings and one game behind league leader and defending champion Mt. Vernon (13-8, 11-2).

A loss by Mt. Vernon at Yorktown tonight and a Dragons’ sweep of New Castle would lock the county rivals in a tie for first place and give each a share of the HHC championship.

Both HHC series were originally scheduled to be concluded Wednesday but were postponed due to weather. New Palestine’s series finale with New Castle has yet to be rescheduled.

Mt. Vernon would win the HHC outright with a sweep of Yorktown, marking its second straight after finishing 12-2 in the league last season.

New Palestine last won the HHC in 2018, which was the program’s 11th league title since 1994.

Mt. Vernon clinched at least a share of the HHC with their 3-2, eight-inning win over Yorktown on Tuesday. The HHC crown is the program’s third overall. The first was shared with New Palestine in 2009.

The Dragons tightened the HHC race with their win against New Castle by turning a 1-0 deficit into a 4-1 lead and an eventual five-run victory behind eight hits Tuesday, including a triple by Carter Stogsdill and a double from Maddox Manes (1-for-4).

Luke Legault finished the game a perfect 4-for-4 with two RBI. Eli Bruns (1-for-2), Ben Morwick, Zayden Stiller, Stogsdill (1-for-3) and Caleb Davis (1-for-3) each drove in a run apiece.

Davis earned the pitching win, going six frames with six hits allowed, two walks and five strikeouts. Blaine Nunnally pitched an inning in relief with one hit surrendered and a strikeout.

2022 Hoosier Heritage Conference Baseball Standings

School;CW-CL;W-L;Streak

Mt. Vernon;11-2;13-8;1 W

New Palestine;10-3;19-5;13 W

New Castle;10-3;13-4-1;2 L

Yorktown;7-6;15-9;2 L

Greenfield-Central;6-7;9-13;1 W

Shelbyville;5-8;12-11;2 L

Pendleton Heights;3-10;10-14;3 W

Delta;0-13;7-16;1 L

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