FORTVILLE — When competing to win a fourth straight outright Hoosier Heritage Conference baseball title, you have to pull out all the stop.

When times got tough in Thursday’s HHC finale against Yorktown, Mt. Vernon went back to the guy that has a history of getting the Marauders out of tough spots.

Senior Jack Peine pitched in 17 of the team’s 30 games last year as the team’s closer. He regularly came in with runners on base and typically got the Marauders of trouble. He had a 1.54 ERA and fanned 47 in 27.1 innings of work.

Up until Thursday, Peine had only been a starting pitcher this season, compiling, again, tremendous numbers, which includes a no-hitter in an HHC win over Delta.

With the Marauders up 5-3 in the top of the fifth inning, Yorktown had bases loaded and nobody out.

Mt. Vernon head coach Brad King decided it was time to go back to what worked so well in 2023.

“We got Jack ready and he gets out to the mound and I said, ‘This is a flashback to last year. You’ve got bases loaded and in a tough spot. I have no doubt you’re going to come through.’ He walked the first guy, a couple pitches were close, then just beared down and did what we needed to do, and then we added on (two more runs).”

“Then, the guy who has taken over his role, Andrew Boldt had a really nice inning to close it out.”

Peine walked in a run to make it 5-4, then got a strikeout, grounder back to the mound for a force out at home, and another strikeout to get out of trouble.

Mt. Vernon tacked on two more in the sixth and won 7-4, claiming a fourth straight outright Hoosier Heritage Conference title.

The Marauders won their final 10 conference games. After being 2-4 overall, they’ve won 16 of 18 games.

“It definitely brought back memories,” Peine said of getting the call to warm up and eventually relieve starter Tristan Sitton. “It felt good. I do like the pressure and being out there to close out the game for my team. I was just glad to help out the team.

“I’ve done both my entire life, I’ve been a closer and a starter. Any role my coach or my team needs me to play, I’ll play that role.”

After Yorktown sent eight batters to the plate in the first inning and scored two runs, Mt. Vernon answered by batting around and scoring four in the bottom half of the frame.

A bases-loaded walk to Grant Payson put the Marauders on the board. A wild pitch sent DJ Scheumann home to tie the game and an error on a Will Jacobs ground ball gave Mt. Vernon the lead. Hayden Ford added an RBI-single to give the Marauders a 4-2 advantage.

Yorktown cut the lead in half with a second inning solo home run from Landon Eppard.

Mt. Vernon’s lead grew to 5-3 with a run in the fourth. Nathan Criss reached on an error and stole a base. He scored on a Scheumann single.

In the fifth, a walk, single and another walked filled the bases to give Yorktown a chance to spoil the Marauders night.

Along with getting out of that jam in the fifth, Peine fanned two more in the sixth and got another weak ground ball out. In two innings of work he struck out four and walked two.

“Jack’s been outstanding for us this year, and I had no doubt,” King said. “He doesn’t get rattled. Last year he pitched in 17 games and didn’t get rattled and I put him in horrible positions. And, I had all the confidence in the world to put him in a horrible position again tonight and he would do the job.”

In the bottom of the sixth, Ford and Gage Blanchard reached on walks. After a strikeout, Criss singled to score Ford from second. Hustling on the hit to right field, Blanchard went from first to third. It proved beneficial as he was able to score on a Scheumann sacrifice fly.

Criss and Scheumann both missed the early portion of the season. In fact, they came back right after the 2-4 start.

The Marauders have had more than their share of setbacks this season. University of Iowa-bound pitcher/outfielder Nick Heitman has missed most of the season and will not return. Second baseman Ryker Baer and starting pitcher Griffin Raquet are also out for the year.

We’ve jelled and had a lot of guys who hadn’t played a lot of varsity get experience early on and have got used to the speed of the game,” King said.

“We’re two of the four seniors that have been on varsity since their sophomore year,” Criss said of he and Scheumann. “When we were out we were 2-4 and since we’ve been back we’ve only loss two games, we’ve produced some more RBIs that have given us wins.”

On Thursday, Criss and Scheumann combined to score three runs, and had three RBI and three stolen bases.

Boldt, who took over Peine’s role from last season, pitched the seventh and retired three straight after a leadoff single by Jayce Key. The last out was a nice play on a ground ball to Ford at second base, who threw to first for the final out.

“It’s crazy. Obviously we’ve got talent, but to be able to win this league with the quality teams and pitching and the offenses we see every Tuesday and Wednesday, for us to do that, it’s a testament to our guys,” King said. “We’re blessed to have good players, good pitching and guys that just come out and compete.”

Over those four years of conference titles, the Marauders are 49-7. Last year’s team was 13-1 in league games. The two seasons prior and this season’s team went 12-2.

Thursday’s win was also the program’s 700th.

If Mt. Vernon would have lost Thursday, they still would have had a share of the conference title with New Palestine (11-3).