NAPPANEE – NorthWood’s Drake Gongwer was dialed in on the hill Monday night.
That meant that there were not too many solid connections at the plate by Warsaw hitters.
The senior right-hander fired a four-hit gem as the host Panthers blanked the Tigers 4-0 in Northern Lakes Conference play.
NorthWood improves to 9-1 overall and goes to 4-0 in league action. Warsaw drops to 4-8 overall and moves to 1-3 in NLC play.
Gongwer was in complete command the entire evening in the contest. He struck out nine and walked none and allowed just four singles. Gongwer fanned a pair in the opening frame and was just as strong at the end with a pair of punchouts in the final inning.
“Tonight was the most dialed in that I have seen Drake this season,” said third-year NorthWood skipper Jay Sheets. “He’s worked hard and grown a lot since his freshman year. He’s pitching a lot of innings for us this year. He’s developed more command. When he’s commanding his fastball like tonight, that just makes his curve ball that much better.”
Junior Brant Mast gave Gongwer all the offense he needed with one swing in the second inning. The No. 2 hitter for the Panthers put a charge into a solo home run over the left field fence. Mast also added a sacrifice fly in the fourth frame for the final tally for the home team. He also cracked a double in the third inning.
“We have a strong lineup and Brant had a big night for us tonight,” noted Sheets.
NorthWood also got a two-run double from cleanup hitter Vincent Herschberger in the third inning. His rip scored both Mast and Drew Minnich, who had reached on a Tiger error, to make it 3-0.
The Panthers finished 19-9 overall and 9-5 in the NLC a year ago and claimed a fourth straight Class 3-A sectional title.
“Our goals are always to win the NLC and advance deep in the state tournament,” remarked Sheets. “Winning the NLC is big to us. It’s a solid baseball conference.”
Warsaw coach Mike Hepler saw his team, which shared the NLC title with Plymouth last season, lose its fifth game in the last six outings.
“We’re just in a lull right now and have seen some really good pitching lately,” said Hepler. “Overall, we’re playing pretty good baseball despite our record. We’re getting good pitching and playing good defense for the most part.
“I thought that Jordan (Jones) pitched a nice game for us tonight and we played well on defense.
“Gongwer is such a good pitcher and such a good competitor. He does a nice job mixing his pitches and kept our guys off balance. It was a tough game offensively for us. We just have to work through some things offensively. We just have to get better there. We have to make adjustments and have a battle mentality.”
Hepler, whose team has played seven games in the last eight days, is looking forward to practice Tuesday.
“It will be nice to practice Tuesday for the first time in a week,” noted Hepler. “We have to have a good practice and then go up to Northridge Wednesday ready to play.”
Senior Jordan Jones pitched five strong innings for the Tigers. Braxton Tennant worked a 1-2-3 sixth inning for Warsaw.
The quartet of Liam Patton, Bryce Sensibaugh, Collin Marshall and Jared Hawley each had a single for the Tigers.
Warsaw edged the Panthers 5-4 in the junior varsity game. Matt Shoemaker picked up the pitching win and Mason Reber earned the save. Noah Burgh had two hits and an RBI for the Tigers, who improve to 6-6 overall and 3-1 in the NLC.
Warsaw plays at Northridge and NorthWood hosts Elkhart Memorial in conference play Wednesday night.