AURORA – In many instances, the boys on the Batesville Bulldog and Oldenburg Academy tennis rosters are on a first-name basis, having grown up together at some of the same grade schools.

Rarely, though, do they see each others’ faces across the tennis net.

That was the case Saturday morning (Oct. 5) in the finals of the South Dearborn sectional when OA’s 16-2 Twisters squared off against the 10-5 Bulldogs for the right to move on to Richmond’s regional.

With Oldenburg winning at No. 2 singles and doubles and BHS taking the 1 and 3 singles matches, all eyes turned to a third set on the No. 1 doubles court. Serving for the sectional at 5-1, senior Seth Gausman’s last offering was framed by OA to give the Dogs a 3-2 victory.

“We have four or five kids who played in the Batesville youth program, so they know each other very well,” said OA head coach David Back. “I don’t know if that makes it harder or easier to play one another, but our kids held their own. I wish them the best at regional, I just wish we could have been there instead.”

Gausman and classmate Adam Scott won the morning’s first completed set, 6-4 over Jacob Sheets and Patrick Thompson, but lost 6-4 in the next set. The Bulldog duo broke out 3-1 in the deciding set before winning the next two games at love and taking 12 of the final 13 points.

“Those two seniors were fighting to keep their careers going,” said BHS head coach Michael McKinney. “I couldn’t be more proud of the way they played that third set.”

The senior pairing was a change in the BHS lineup late in the year, Scott moving over from 2 singles. Likewise, No. 2 was shuffled by OA leading up to postseason; Jon Grieshop was replaced by Riley Schebler.

“We evaluated what was our best option for the postseason, and we knew for us to win, it might be best to make changes,” explained McKinney. “It worked out in our favor.”

Back’s move worked like a gem. All Schebler did was go 7-0 down the stretch, including Saturday’s 6-4, 6-2 win over Grant Story. Grieshop, for his part, joined Ethan Back at 2 doubles in winning all four sectional sets. In the finals, they teamed for a 7-6 (7-5), 6-2 win over Sam Voegele and Max Giesting, the latter on the OA roster in 2017.

“We weren’t looking at matchups, although it turned out well today,” said Back. “Riley was consistently beating our No. 2 and 3 guys at practice, so we decided to give him a shot.”

Freshman Cael Rahe was part of the Bulldog shakeup as well. After many matches at doubles, he was asked to man the 3 singles court. Rahe came up big with a 6-3, 6-3 win over Drew Wagner.

“It took him awhile for that transition but, all of a sudden, the flip switched on,” said his coach. “He lost Thursday’s match and was in nearly the same situation today. I’m glad he was able to finish this time.”

Rock steady at 1 singles was junior Lleyton Ratcliffe, who posted a 6-3, 6-3 win over counterpart Michael Wanstrath.

“I’m extremely proud of these guys,” said McKinney. “Winning this sectional after all the matches we lost last year is just huge.”

Back can look forward to a full lineup returning in 2020, reinforced by still more players with varsity experience.

“I’m very proud of our kids,” he said. “I thought they did a great job all year and today. We’ll battle back and look forward to next year.”

Batesville will face Knightstown Oct. 8 and likely the host Red Devils should they advance to Wednesday’s finals.

“Knightstown is a solid team who beat OA 3-2 and just won a second straight sectional,” McKinney said.

“We lost 3-2 to Richmond the first match of the year (3 sets at No. 2 doubles) with five guys playing their first varsity match,” he went on. “We’ve grown at all spots. I think we have great opportunity to win regional as well.”

SEMIFINALS (OCT. 3)

Batesville had a revenge factor in Thursday evening’s semifinal matchup against Eastern Indiana Athletic Conference rival East Central. Despite tying for the conference title, the Bulldogs had lost a 3-2 matchup to the Trojans earlier this year and were ousted by their neighboring foe in last year’s sectional final.

“Even though we had that tough loss early in the year, we knew it was one that could have a different story if we played again in the postseason,” said McKinney.

Ratcliffe put BHS on the board with a 7-5, 6-1 win over Gavin Daniels. The Trojans knotted things after Logan Huisman finished off Story, 6-1, 6-2.

The two sides split the next two outcomes as well. Rahe fell 6-4, 6-2 to senior Brody Taylor while, at the same time, Gausman and Scott were walking off triumphant over Josh Hudepohl and Zach Bovard, 6-3, 6-2.

Giesting and Voegele were to decide the match shortly after, winning in straight sets, 6-2, 6-1.

“This was one of the better matches we played,” McKinney added. “We had a lot of confidence going into it, having gained experience and played a great schedule (since the earlier loss). We were able to come out and play a good match to lead us to this point.”

Oldenburg’s result against the Milan Indians was identical to the regular season matchup a month ago, down to the same positions. OA was a 4-1 winner as Milan’s No. 1 doubles team of Brayden Furr and Bo Wade defeated Sheets and Thompson 6-4, 6-2.

Giving up only two games on the singles courts, the Twisters already had clinched advancement to the final round, however.

Wagner shut out Caleb Prozanski 6-0, 6-0. Wanstrath was quickly off the court against Carter Wade (6-1, 6-0), as was Schebler against Nathan Hancock (6-0, 6-1). OA’s fourth and final point came via Back and Grieshop, the pair trouncing Joe Hawk and Shane Phelps, 6-0, 6-1.

Will Fehlinger can be contacted at sports@batesvilleheraldtribune.com or 812-934-4343, Ext. 220112