ELKHART – The Warsaw baseball team just could not catch a break Monday night.
The Tigers, unfortunately, also could not cash in when opportunity knocked late.
Concord held on to edge Warsaw 2-1 in a nail biter in the Class 4-A Elkhart Memorial Sectional final.
The Minutemen, winners of their first sectional title since 2009, improve to 15-15. Concord will face Lake Central Saturday at 11:30 a.m. ET in the first semifinal game of the LaPorte Regional.
Warsaw finishes its season at 11-16.
The Tigers had ample chances to clip Concord, who they split with in regular-season Northern Lakes Conference action.
Warsaw outhit the Minutemen 7-4, but stranded eight base runners in the contest.
The Tigers had a golden opportunity in the top of the sixth inning.
Caleb Moneyheffer started the sixth with a single. Tyler LaFollette then drew a walk. Concord then opted to pull senior starter Nick DeFreese and replace him with junior Brenden Curry. Brandon Shipp then worked Curry for a walk to load the bases with no outs.
Curry, a junior right-hander, then got a strikeout of Sterling Hay, as he fouled off a bunt attempt on a third strike. Dean Katris then hit a bouncer to third for a force out at the plate for the second out. Curry then fanned pinchitter Marselo Rodriguez to end the threat.
“We just couldn’t get anything there in the sixth,” said Warsaw coach Mike Hepler. “We did not take advantage of the opportunity. I wouldn’t do anything different in that inning.
“It was a rough day for us. There were so many things that could have gone either way, but that’s baseball. We just could not catch a break.
“It’s bizarre. Who would have thought it would be a 2-1 game with the wind blowing out. We just did not play consistent, winning baseball and that’s why our record is what it is.”
Warsaw had a pair of runners called out on close plays trying to steal second. The Tigers had Katris just miss tying the game at 2-2 in the fourth inning when his blast went just foul down the left field line.
The Tigers took a 1-0 lead in the first. Justin Oberlin led off the game with a double. Ethyn Bradley then put down a perfect sacrifice bunt to move him to third. Caleb Heckaman then delivered an RBI single.
Concord tied the game with a tally in the home half of the opening inning. DeFreese, their No. 3 hitter, got a two-out single and Curry followed with an RBI double.
The Minutemen scored the decisive run in the second. Jake Vernon led off the inning by smacking a ball into the right field corner. The Concord catcher was called safe at third on a bang-bang play for a triple. With one out and the Warsaw infield in, No. 8 hitter Brett Austin hit a soft single over the shortstop on an 0-2 pitch to score Trevor Wilmore from third.
“Concord is a good team and DeFreese and Curry threw well for them,” Hepler said. “We just could not get any momentum after the first inning. I thought in the second that the game was not going to be high scoring so I brought the infield in.”
Junior Tyler LaFollette turned in an outstanding effort on the hill for the Tigers. The right-hander only allowed four hits, with none coming after the second inning. He got a 5-4-3 double play to end a Concord threat in the second and then got two infield pop outs and a strikeout of Concord’s No. 3, 4 and 5 hitters in the third after the first two batters had reached on a walk and a hit by pitch.
LaFollette walked two and struck out three in his gutty performance.
“I give Tyler a lot of credit for the way he pitched tonight,” said Hepler. “He settled in nicely. He’s a competitor.”
Bradley led Warsaw with three hits.
DeFreese and Curry combined for seven strikeouts and four walks for the Minutemen.
The Tigers, who started the season 8-4, lose eight seniors in Brandon Shipp, Oberlin, James Brandes, Katris, Peter Shepherd, Heckaman, Cody Bixler and Caleb Moneyheffer.