FORTVILLE — Wes Stiller showed why he was intentionally walked in two of his three previous at-bats.
He was hit by pitch in the other.
It was pretty obvious Pendleton Heights (13-14) didn’t want to have anything to do with the New Palestine left-handed hitting slugger in Saturday’s semifinal baseball game of Class 4A Sectional 9 at Mt. Vernon High School.
In a scoreless game with two outs and a runner on first base and not wanting to put the winning run in scoring position, the Arabians decided they’d pitch to Stiller.
Spencer Leppink, the Pendleton Heights pitcher who had given up just two singles in 6 2/3 innings pitched, gave Stiller a pitch he liked.
It was crushed over the center fielder’s head and Nic Deering, who had walked in the previous at-bat, easily scored with the game’s only run in the Dragons 1-0 victory, sending New Palestine (21-9) to Monday’s championship game.
“All of us are competitive,” Stiller said. “As a hitter I always want to hit, especially in big situations when we have runners on. I’ve had a lot of success with that this year. So, I was really feeling the moment. When I finally got my at-bat, I was just looking for a ball down and here we are.”
Stiller came in with a team-best seven home runs. No other Dragon has two. He also has 41 RBIs, nearly twice as many as Ben Hirschy, who is second on the Dragons with 21.
“It was frustrating (being walked), but I think it was just because of competitiveness. I just wanted to play,” Stiller added.
“There was no question for me to let (Leppink) pitch there,” Pendleton Heights coach Matt Vosburgh said. “If the base is open, we’ll walk him, but we can’t have the winning run in scoring position. That’s just one of those moments where (Deering) did his job and got on base. Had it been earlier in the game, we might have considered it, but not the winning run.
“You have to just tip your cap to a guy who’s going to blast the ball to the fence in a pressure moment like that.”
In the third inning, Blaine Nunnally led off with a single. He stole second base and moved to third on a sacrifice bunt by Deering. Stiller was intentionally walked and it proved to be a wise decision. Leppink got Jacob Morris to ground into a 4-6-3 double play.
In the fifth, Ben Morwick got an infield single, and moved to second on a throwing error. After two outs, Stiller came up again, and again, he was intentionally walked. The Arabians got out of that jam, too.
Stiller may have had the heroics at the plate, but that opportunity to win it wouldn’t have happened without Michael Thorpe continuing to throw zeros up on the Arabians’ side of the scoreboard.
The New Palestine junior right-hander gave up just three hits and struck out four. His defense helped him out, playing errorless ball, which included a diving snag by Morwick, in centerfield, to open the fifth inning. Stiller had an impressive running catch in right field to end the second inning. After a leadoff hit by pitch in the fourth, Thorpe started a 1-6-3 double play, a huge play as Nate Gilmet followed with a double, Pendleton Heights’ only extra base hit of the game.
“He knows how to pitch. He throws strikes. He pounds the zone,” New Palestine coach Shawn Lyons said. “We’re fielding .960 as a team. In high school baseball, that’s amazing.”
New Palestine 1, Pendleton Heights 0
Pendleton Heights (13-14);000;000;0 —;0;3;2
New Palestine (21-9);000;000;1; —;1;3;0
Spencer Leppink and Nate Gilmet. Michael Thorpe and Wyatt Matheis. 2B: PH — Gilmet. NP — Wes Stiller. WP: Thorpe (6-2). LP: Leppink.