Marauders’ postseason run ends in sectional finals

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Mt. Vernon’s Eli Bridenthal takes a lead off first base while Anderson’s Conner Stump delivers a pitch during the Class 4A Sectional 9 championship game at Mt. Vernon High School on Monday, May 30, 2022.

Tom Russo | Daily Reporter

FORTVILLE — Head coach Brad King and his coaching staff made it a point to thank every one of their Mt. Vernon Marauders before they walked off the field late Monday night.

Whenever one of the baseball team’s eight seniors reached the front of the line, the coaches took a little extra time.

With several of the upperclassmen on the varsity roster last year, there was plenty to discuss. In the two years since the lost season of 2020 (due to COVID-19), the Mt. Vernon seniors were key contributors during the program’s culture shift.

They compiled 43 wins through those two campaigns, including back-to-back 12-2 finishes in the Hoosier Heritage Conference, which resulted in consecutive outright team titles. They were part of the team’s regional championship run in 2021 and posted a school-record 26 victories to reach the semistate tournament and the Indiana High School Athletic Association’s baseball final four.

The 2022 group knew the expectations this postseason, and even after falling 13-7 against Anderson in the Class 4A Sectional 9 title game Monday on their home field, those yearly goals haven’t change.

“We did really well in the conference this year, but it doesn’t mean anything. This is where you’re supposed to win, and I feel like the expectation is to win a sectional here. And, that’s what we’re trying to build with this team,” Mt. Vernon junior Eli Bridenthal said. “You need to win the conference and win the sectional every year. No matter what. And, we didn’t meet the expectation.”

With the deck stacked against them, the Marauders gritted through both Saturday and Monday to put themselves in position to make a potential run at a sectional repeat, but simply put, the defending champions ran out of arms.

Unable to turn to Bridenthal, their ace pitcher, for the title game after maxing out his pitch count during the quarterfinal round against Pendleton Heights, 4-2, on Saturday, the Marauders used four pitchers for their three-hour marathon, 16-15, semifinal win Monday afternoon against rival Greenfield-Central to advance.

That left very few arms for the title game, as they sent another four pitchers to the mound, once again, while the Anderson Indians (17-12) took advantage early and often.

“You can’t make excuses. They were the better team tonight. The hit totals were pretty similar, but it’s just we hit some people, walked some people, and you can blame that on lack of pitching, but at the end of the day, they have to pitch on the same mound as us,” Bridenthal said.

The Indians plated three runs in the first inning and six more in the second before leading 10-3 after three complete frames. Anderson capitalized on four walks and three hit batters in the first two frames while adding seven hits.

Overall, the Indians faced 15 bases-loaded situations in the game, and they drove in nine runs in those scenarios.

The Sectional 9 tournament was originally scheduled to be conducted, beginning on Wednesday, but due to heavy rain storms throughout the week, games were postponed until the weekend and Memorial Day.

With three games in three days, there was limited maneuverability for the Marauders’ pitching staff.

“We ran out of pitching. That’s what I was thinking this whole game, and it’s nothing against what our pitchers did. They went out there and competed, but we just ran out of pitching,” King said. “You can say, if it didn’t rain and we played on Wednesday or whatever, but that’s not what happened. In reality, we had to play the hand that was dealt, and we came up short.”

Despite the early hole, the Marauders never surrendered, scoring in each inning but the bottom of the sixth and seventh. Bridenthal went 3-for-4 with three runs scored, junior Konnor Scheidt drove in three runs and laced a two-run double in the fourth to cut the deficit 10-5.

Junior Russell Weaver went 1-for-3, and senior Austin Hear was 2-for-3 with two doubles, an RBI and a run scored. Senior Bryce Miller delivered with a single and an RBI sacrifice in the fifth.

Senior Landon Clark was the last of the Marauders’ four pitchers, and he worked two scoreless frames in the sixth and seventh despite the Indians loading the bases two more times. Clark struck out three, walked four and didn’t allow a hit.

“Anderson came out and attacked the baseball. They hit it well and pitched it well, and they played good defense. Hats off to them. They earned this,” King said. “A good-hitting team like Anderson, if you give them too many opportunities, they’re going to come through. And, they did. We look up at the scoreboard, and we scored every inning but the last two. When you do that, you expect to win, but we just could not stop their offense today. Even when we got two outs, they got somebody on base and it seemed to go.”

Anderson senior Conner Stephenson got the Indians going in the top of the first with a two-run home run and finished 3-for-3 with two walks and four runs scored. Senior Trevor Trahan went 1-for-4 with three RBI, including a bases-loaded walk. Five Indian players logged RBI via a bases-loaded walk or hit by pitch. Three more connected for hits to drive in runs.

The loss was Mt. Vernon second in seven games, and it finalized their season at 17-10. Next season, the Marauders will look to get back again for another shot at their ninth sectional title in program history and possibly the team’s third regional (1971, 2021).

“I’d like to think since we’ve been here (these past three years as a coaching staff) that we’ve set that culture in gear where we expect to compete for conference championships. We expect to win sectional championships, and it’s not going to be any different next year,” King said. “We have a lot of talent coming back, and it’s going to be really fun to watch these guys. They’re going to make a lot of noise over the next couple of years.”

Anderson 13, Mt. Vernon 7

Anderson (17-12);361;030;0;—;13;11;3

Mt. Vernon (17-10);111;220;0;—;7;9;4

HR: Conner Stephenson (A). 2B: Austin Hear 2, Konnor Scheidt (MV).

WP: Kairo Parks (4.2 IP, 4 H, 6 K, 4 BB). LP: Nicholas Heitman (1.0 IP, 3 H, 2 K, 4 BB, 3 HB).

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