AURORA – The best laid plans of mice and men ...
After earning part of a 4-way tie atop the Eastern Indiana Athletic Conference and winning 15 games overall, the Batesville Bulldogs faced Rushville in the quarterfinals of South Dearborn's Sectional 29 Friday night (May 24). The Lions held everyone up in the EIAC, finishing 3-11, and had lost to BHS by a combined 16-3 in early May. In neither of those two games, though, had the Dogs seen senior right-hander Tyler Wilson.
Wilson's numbers entering the game weren't exceptional by any means, but on Friday he fired a four-hit shutout with nine strikeouts, a walk and a hit-batsman. With Sam Voegele inching off third and only one out, Wilson fanned Nate Slavin and Caleb Raab to complete the 1-0 gem.
"We'd never have guessed this would be a 1-0 game," said BHS head coach Justin Tucker, whose team was looking to repeat as sectional champs. "But, as we say all the time, baseball is like life and you get unexpected things. Sometimes you have to get knocked down to show how you'll respond."
Raab, Wilson's counterpart, was nearly as effective on the mound through the first five innings before giving way to Lane Oesterling in the sixth. However, Rushville's first batter – Cameron Craig – led off with a double to left field; it was just one of two hits allowed by Raab. Wilson sacrificed him to third and Mason Springman brought in the game's only run with a sacrifice fly to center.
Although the Lions didn't get a runner past second the rest of the way, Batesville had runner(s) in scoring position in five separate innings, including a runner on third the last three frames.
"The unfortunate part is we had multiple opportunities to score, and had to find a way to get those guys (home)," said Tucker.
"You've got to give credit to Wilson," he added. "He found a way to hunker down and make pitches ... a lot of guys don't do that and he did. He pitched a fantastic game and that's the way they beat us."
The closest the Bulldogs came to home plate was in the top of five. Slavin took a curveball in the back and was replaced at first by courtesy runner Brayden Worthington. The senior stole second and moved to third on a wild pitch. Wilson caught Raab looking for the second out, which brought up Brayden Linkel. Early in the at-bat, Worthington broke for home but slid into the tag of catcher Spencer Bowles.
Tucker confirmed it as an attempted straight steal of home.
"We had two outs, our No. 9 hitter up and Wilson in the windup, so in that situation, it's probably our best opportunity to score," he explained. "It wasn't successful but it's not really a second guess, because I'd probably do that again."
The Bulldogs' standout shortstop Trey Heidlage tried to make that a moot point in Batesville's next at-bat. With one out, the senior stroked a double down the third-base line and cleanly stole third. Freshman Travis Lecher also got into scoring position with a walk and stolen base. Wilson then got a pop-up to shortstop and a swinging strikeout to shut down the threat.
Voegele led off the seventh with a base hit up the middle and pilfered second. Trey Peters' sacrifice bunt set up the game-ending sequence. In the second, Voegele added a single and stolen base; a flyout and strikeout kept him stranded. Heidlage did the same in the third before Lecher rolled out to shortstop.
Gage Rosenfeld reached second on a walk and steal in the bottom of two. Raab then induced two infield flies. After Craig's steal of second base in the third stanza, Raab fanned Wilson and retired Springman on a fly ball to right. Wilson led off the bottom of the sixth with a double to left off Oesterling, who set down the next three batters. Hayden Walls recorded the Lions' other hit.
For Tucker, his Bulldogs will forge ahead without the services of Nathan Eckstein, Heidlage, Oesterling, Raab, Slavin, Quinn Werner, Cooper Williams and Worthington.
"This will make the younger guys hungry to come back," said Tucker. "Now they understand you don't win a sectional every year. They have to make sure they use every rep, every minute and every thought so this doesn't happen again.
"Those 20 guys in the dugout put more into this thing than I could have ever imagined," he went on. "The seniors, particularly, for four years gave their heart and soul to Batesville baseball. They had a heck of a run for three years, but unfortunately the fourth year didn't work out the way we intended."
Batesville finished 15-12. Rushville took on South Dearborn in Saturday's semifinal. The title game was scheduled for Memorial Day.
Will Fehlinger can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 812-934-4343, Ext. 112.