LIGONIER – While the overcast skies set a drab tone for Thursday night’s sectional quarterfinal, not even the sunniest of skies could have changed the mood of the Tippecanoe Valley baseball team after a 4-1 season ending loss at the hands of West Noble.
“We just really couldn’t get anything going today,” stated Viking head coach Brandon Cody.
Talking about his team following Thursday’s loss, Cody made it known that this game was won on the mound for West Noble.
“We knew we were going to see their (West Noble) number one pitcher. With that long break over the weekend you always see a team’s number one. He was solid, in the strike zone the whole time and had a pretty good curve ball. Other than a few breaks we had that one inning, he was pretty solid,” Cody stated.
Charger pitcher Nick Noe took the mound for West Noble on Thursday and looked to save an all but terrible season for his team. The Chargers entered sectional with a dismal 2-20 record, but with Noe on the mound they had a chance. And a chance is all Charger head coach Doug Brown wanted for his team.
“We’ve had this game in us all season long, we’ve just had a few bad innings here or there,” Brown said. “We’re not a team that should have 15 to 20 wins but we should have nine or 10 wins. This is the kind of game we wanted, a pitching duel. Nick Noe was great on the mound for us and these conditions worked well for us. I’ll take the pitchers duel every time.”
Noe set the tone for his team through the first three innings keeping the Vikings off the board. Noe pitched all seven innings for his team giving up just one run and striking out seven batters.
The senior pitcher finally got some support in the top of the fourth inning thanks to a great decision by his coach. With one out and Landon Stover standing at first base, Levi Nelson hit a ball to left field for a single. The ball was bobbled by a Valley outfielder leaving a small window for Brown to make the decision to send Stover through third and towards home.
“As soon as I saw the outfielder bobble it, I waved him (Landon) home. I knew the ball was wet so the throw had to be perfect for him to get our guy. The conditions definitely made that play for us. You could see this game was a pitchers duel and we had to take the chance,” stated Brown.
The throw did make it to Valley catcher Garrett Bell, but not before Stover had been able to slide across home plate. Stover’s run was the first of two runs scored in the inning. Stover finished the game going 2-3 with the run scored.
The Vikings added a run of their own in the bottom half of the inning thanks to an RBI single from Jared Littlejohn, which scored Dan Miller on a bang-bang play at first with the bases loaded. While the Vikings caught some breaks in the inning, the Akron club only managed to turn West Noble’s mistakes into one run. Littlejohn went 1-2 on the day driving in his team’s only run.
Both teams would remain quiet until the seventh inning when the Chargers finally seemed to break Viking pitcher Clayton Adamson and the Vikings defense. Several mistakes and big hits tacked on two insurance runs for West Noble, leaving Valley with a larger than desired hole to dig itself out of. Adamson pitched a complete game for the Vikings and struck out eight batters. Adamson was charged with all four runs scored.
Valley tried to make a threat in the bottom of the inning with a hit from Tanner Andrews, but the junior was thrown out at second base in a very questionable call by the second base umpire. The tag out of Andrews was the second out of the inning and all but took the wind from the Vikings sails; eventually dashing the hopes of a second consecutive sectional title.
“Today was just one of those days where the ball fell their way and we couldn’t get anything to fall our way. It was just a poor day offensively for us,” stated Cody.
“This is a tough one to swallow,” continued Cody. “We are losing a lot of good kids with this senior class. We had a few injuries to some of our seniors earlier this year which were really big injuries for our team and it was tough to not have those guys on the field with us. Obviously we had some great talent with these seniors and they all contributed in their own ways and we’re going to miss them.”
The Vikings finish the season at 9-13 and will be expected to bring back a majority of this year’s sectional roster to next season’s opening day. West Noble improves to 3-20 on the year and will play in the sectional semi-final on Monday morning against Northeast Corner Conference foe and class 3-A No. 10 Fairfield with first pitch set for 9 a.m.