Nick Noe played the role of hero Wednesday night, fighting through an arm injury on the mound and providing the theatrics at the plate as West Noble shocked Wawasee, 4-3, in the opening game of the Wawasee Baseball Sectional.
Noe, still suffering the effects of a stress fracture on his pitching elbow from the basketball season, gutted through seven innings on the mound. His five hits allowed and four strikeouts kept his team in the game long enough to come to the plate in the seventh with the game tied and the winning run on first.
After Levi Nelson reached first on a single, surrounding a pair of outs, Noe nearly didn’t have a chance to crack the game-winning double. A two-two pitch by John Beer nearly missed the corner, giving Noe another pitch. In true dramatic fashion, Noe crushed Beer’s next offering to the outfield fence, far enough for Nelson to chug in from first. Thus set of a wild celebration by West Noble (5-21), which were soundly beaten by Wawasee, 7-1, just two days ago on the same field.
“I just sat back and knew what was coming being a pitcher and all. I just sat back and it went,” Noe said. “I just let the pitch come in and put the barrel on the ball.”
The win allows West Noble to move onto the Wawasee Sectional semi-finals against the winner of Tippecanoe Valley (13-8) and Fairfield (18-9). Despite the magic from Noe, West Noble had to scrape together unearned runs in the fifth and sixth innings just to stay alive. Three Warrior errors in the two innings were the culprits, which nullified a clutch hit from Si Shear in the fourth inning, whose bases-loaded missile into the left-center gap was misplayed, allowing the bases to clear. Wawasee at that point held a 3-1 lead and looked in good shape. But the extra mustard from the Chargers became the mantra for the night.
“We had opportunities to open it up early, but we couldn’t seem to scratch the runs across,” said West Noble head coach Doug Brown. “But credit to the kids, they never quit. They just kept pressing forward, even when things didn’t go our way. We just kept going forward, putting the bat on the ball. We played good defense, we stayed focused, I am really proud of them.”
The loss for Wawasee (7-19) was bittersweet in more than just a season-ending disappointment. The loss also signified the end of the careers of five seniors, including Shear who will move onto playing college ball at Limestone College in South Carolina, closing with a pair of hits. Joe Fleagle, who pitched brilliantly, gave up just one earned run and struck out four while working out of bases loaded jams in the second and third innings.
The night also signified the end of the coaching run for head coach John Blunk, who was not asked to renew his coaching contract following the season.
“I’m happy they won, they deserved it because they played hard,” a very sullen Blunk stated following the game. “We didn’t play hard enough to win. We didn’t play good enough to win. We didn’t deserve to win.
“The program will go wherever the new head coach takes them,” continued Blunk. “It should go up, there is a lot of young talent. Hopefully it will go up. But you can’t replace a Si Shear. He was the heart and soul of the team.”
Tippy and Fairfield play tomorrow at 5 p.m., with West Noble waiting Monday morning at 9 a.m. NorthWood (19-8) and Lakeland (7-20-1) will play game two Monday and the championship is scheduled for 5 p.m. Monday evening. The sectional champion will take on the Yorktown Sectional winner in the first game of the Bellmont Regional on June 2.