NEW PALESTINE — Mt. Vernon and Pendleton Heights were no strangers to close games decided in the final inning.

In the regular season series, the Marauders took both games by a score of 2-1. At home, they walked off for a 2-1 victory and on the road at Pendleton Heights scored two in the sixth to escape with the win.

It was only right that the postseason matchup between the two followed suit.

In the opening round of IHSAA Class 4A Sectional 9 at New Palestine, the Marauders seventh-inning comeback came up just short in a 4-3 loss to the Arabians.

“It’s challenging to play a team a third time,” Mt. Vernon head coach Brad King said. “Pendleton is a good team. We played two really good games with them that could’ve gone either way and those went to us. This time we battled to the end and just ended up a run short.”

Down 4-2 heading into the bottom of the seventh, Mt. Vernon nearly completed another comeback win over the Arabians.

Gage Blanchard walked to lead off the inning, and two batters later Nathan Criss walked to bring the winning run to the plate with one out.

After a strikeout by Pendleton Heights pitcher Jacob Garner put the Marauders down to their last out, freshman Mason Meyer ripped a single to right field to score Blanchard and advance the tying run to third.

A hard-hit ground ball to shortstop off the bat of Grant Payson ended the game.

“That’s the guy you want up. If you would’ve told me before the game that you’ve got first and third with two outs, down a run and Grant Payson up, I’d take that,” King said. “We could’ve started the game right there and I’d have been OK with that.”

All four of the Pendleton Heights runs came in the second inning.

After Mt. Vernon scored a pair of runs in the bottom of the first on sacrifice flies by Meyer and DJ Scheumann, the Arabians answered with a four spot.

A leadoff walk by Jackson Grile set up Clint Miller for his first home run of the season. He launched one over the left-field fence to tie things up.

It was the first home run allowed by Mt. Vernon’s Cam Sullivan all season and was the start of an uncharacteristic inning for the Marauders ace.

Following the home run, Rylan Keesling reached base and advanced to third on an error and was then driven in by a Colton Frank infield single. After another walk by Sullivan, a Collin Axel-Adams single pushed the lead to 4-2.

Sullivan retired the next three batters to limit the damage, but it was all the Arabians would need. He pitched all seven innings, allowed six hits, walked two, allowed four runs and struck out 11.

“Cam might have left the ball up and over the plate a bit, but it seemed like he wasn’t getting the calls that he normally gets on the corners. Pendleton knew we were going to throw him, so they prepared and cranked up the pitching machine,” King said. “With the way the game is nowadays, it’s not rare for these kids to see a 90-plus arm. Those arms are all over our conference, so kids aren’t intimidated. If you’re forced to throw the ball over the plate, the good hitters are going to hit, and Pendleton is a really good hitting team.”

Mt. Vernon had a chance to respond in the bottom half of the inning, but a tough play by second baseman Ty Frakes saved at least one run.

With the bases loaded after three walks, a ground ball off the bat of Criss was gloved and flipped to second base all in one motion by Frakes for the force out to end the threat.

“That’s the thing, you look at a turf field and you think that ball is hit decent and has a shot to get through, but to be honest if we’re on grass that slows it down and maybe they don’t make the play at second,” King said. “If we score a run there, things might change a little bit.”

In the third, the Arabians put the first two runners on, but a triple play by Mt. Vernon put an abrupt stop to things. With the momentum seemingly flipped back to the Marauders side, Pendleton Heights starting pitcher Brayden Stevenson retired the next six batters.

Mt. Vernon ended the season with an 18-8 record and were outright Hoosier Heritage Conference champions for the fourth straight season.

“This was the first class that we’ve had for four years and they’ve experienced a lot of things. None of them were up as freshmen until the tournament, but they got to experience four straight conference championships and 80 plus wins,” King said. “They experienced a lot of success that is unprecedented at Mt. Vernon. Nobody has done what this class did.”

Pendleton Heights 4, Mt. Vernon 3

Pendleton Heights (17-10);040;000;0; —; 4;6;0

Mt. Vernon (18-8);200;000;1; —3;2;1

Brayden Stevenson, Jacob Garner (6) and Rylan Keesling; Cam Sullivan and Grant Payson. 2B: PH – Jackson Grile. HR: PH – Clint Miller (1). WP: Stevenson (7-0). LP: Sullivan (3-2).