ELKHART – Warsaw baseball coach Mike Helper did everything in his power Monday to try and cool off the red-hot bats of Concord.
Maybe short of turning the sprinklers on or doing a rain dance of some sorts on Charger Field.
The line-drive hitting Minutemen mashed the ball to the tune of a 15-5 semifinal win over the Tigers on a sultry sectional day at the Class 4-A Elkhart Memorial tournament.
Concord advanced to Monday night’s sectional finale to face No. 10 and defending champion Elkhart Central. Central beat Memorial 8-2 in Monday’s second semifinal contest.
Central (24-5) repeated as sectional champions Monday night with a 12-1 win over Concord, which finishes at 19-11. The Blue Blazers advance to the LaPorte Regional Saturday to play the Munster Sectional winner.
Warsaw sees its season end at 11-18.
The Minutemen, who beat Warsaw 4-0 and 20-4 in NLC regular-season action, were blazing. Concord rapped out 13 hits, including six of the extra base variety off five Warsaw pitchers. The Minutemen, who beat Northridge 11-1 in five innings in first-round play Thursday, also took advantage of five walks and four hit batters.
Junior Matt Kotva led the hit parade by reaching base in all five-at bats with a three hits, including a solo homer, and five RBI. The cleanup hitter also scored three runs.
Leadoff hitter Nick Wysong had three hits, including a pair of triples, and No. 9 hitter Preston Miller added two hits, including a two-run double, as Concord crushed the ball all over Charger Field.
“A long and hot game,” summed up Hepler of the marathon that took 2:35 to play. “Our kids battled hard, but you have to credit Concord. A lot of it was them today. They are a good team and they hit the ball hard.”
Concord built a 9-1 lead with a five-run second and a three-run third frame. A two-run single by Kotva, who just missed by a triple of hitting for the cycle, highlighted the second which included six hits by the Minutemen. A solo blast by Kotva in the fourth made it 10-1.Warsaw, which outscored Goshen 13-11 on Thursday to advance, got three in the fifth. Kyle Morris smacked an RBI single and Austin Franzen followed with a two-run blast to right center to make it 10-4.
The Minutemen stretched the lead in the top of the final frame with four more tallies on a triple by Wysong, three straight walks and a two-run single by Dakota Simon.
“Concord drove line drives today off some good pitchers and it kind of snowballed,” Hepler said. “It was their day. We managed to stay out of the big inning for the most part, but by the time we got it going there in the fifth it was too late.”
Concord coach Jim Treadway watched his team use the same recipe for success at the plate as they have all season.
“We saw Forde (Warsaw starter Forde Ness) the first time we played them and we’re looking for a lot of first ball fastballs,” said Treadway. “We were aggressive and found the gaps early. This is how we play. We put the ball in play and score runs with two outs when we are locked in. We work a lot on that. We’ve scored like 48 percent of our runs this season with two outs.”
Concord continued that trend Monday with seven runners crossing the dish with two outs.
Morris led Warsaw with a pair of RBI singles. Shay Hepler had a double and a run scored and Garrett Gruenewald a double for Warsaw.
Tiger starter Forde Ness, along with relievers Kyle Gibbs, Jason Ferguson, Austin Franzen and Garrett Gruenewald, all took their turn on the hill for Hepler’s squad against the deep and talented Concord lineup.
Warsaw, which battled through an up-and-down season, loses 10 seniors in Brock Anson, Gruenewald, Peyton Balazs, Kyle Gibbs, Brady Ousley, Austin Moore, Pedro Miguel, Jason Ferguson, Austin Franzen, Kyle Morris and Jake Speicher.
Seniors Ousley and Moore, both starters, missed the sectional after suffering season-ending injuries.