It took over four-and-a-half hours and 18 innings, but Lafayette Central Catholic finally figured out how to drive a stake through the heart of a courageous tribe of Westview Warriors Saturday night in the championship game of the 2A Whiting baseball regional.
The No. 3 Knights, a long-time powerhouse in Class 1A, scored five runs in the top of the 18th then held the Warriors scoreless in the bottom of the frame to secure an 8-3 triumph and a spot in the 2A semi-state this Saturday at Kokomo.
“This was a great game to be a part of, but I wish it would have had a different ending,” sighed Westview skipper Jason Rahn upon emerging from one last emotional huddle with his dejected players. “We went toe-to-toe with one of the great programs in the state. Our kids have nothing to hang their heads about.”
The epic marathon tilt had as many twists and turns as a Cedar Point roller coaster ride. Both teams had numerous chances to go ahead or win the game after the seventh inning, only to be turned away by some heroic defensive play.
In the top of the eighth, Central Catholic placed runners on second and third with one out. Luke Schrader lined a grounder up the middle that was stabbed by Warrior hurler Jamar Weaver, who turned it into the second out and held the go-ahead run at third. Weaver then induced the next batter to ground out to second to end the threat.
The Warriors loaded the bases with one out in the bottom of the 10th. Chase Anderson then hit a line drive up the middle, only to have Central Catholic pitcher Jackson Anthrop making a diving catch and double up Tarrin Beachy at first.
The Knights took a 3-2 lead in the top of the 13th on a bases-loaded walk issued to Schrader. Westview was down to its last strike in the bottom of the frame when Kohle Christner poked a single to right to keep the inning alive.
John Yoder followed with a single, sending Christner to second and bringing up designated hitter Hunter Christner, who was 0-5 with four strikeouts at that point in the contest.
“I never even thought about pinch-hitting for Hunter,” said Rahn. “We knew he would put the ball in play.”
The senior responded by looping a single over the LCC third baseman, bringing around courtesy runner Jordan Stoltzfus with the tying run.
Four scoreless innings passed until the fateful 18th frame which began with the Knights’ No. 9 batter, Anthony Berumen singling off the Warriors’ third pitcher of the evening, Judah Zickafoose. Bunt singles by the next two LCC batters loaded the bases with no outs.
Evan Kennedy then stepped to the plate and drove a Zickafoose delivery to the wall in left field, scoring two runs. A Westview error, a sacrifice fly off the bat of Brayden Bordenet and an RBI single by Nigel Hensley plated three more runs.
The third Central Catholic hurler of the game, Nate Wiercioch, retired the Warriors in order in the bottom of the 18th, two by strikeout, to nail down the victory and the regional title.
Yoder collected two of the eight Warrior hits in the game.
The loss ended a great Westview season at 21-6 and also brought to a close the prep careers of seniors Weaver, Zickafoose, Beachy, Stoltzfus, both Christners and Jamin Lambright. “That group has meant everything to Warrior baseball,” said Rahn. “Those will be some tough shoes to fill.”
Lafayette Central Catholic (27-6) takes on No. 1 Wapahani (28-4) in the 2A semi-state at Kokomo this Saturday. That contest follows the 1A semi-state finale between Washington Township and Rockville set to start at 1 p.m.