SYRACUSE – It may not have been a true upset on paper, but Tippecanoe Valley shook up the Class 3-A Wawasee Baseball Sectional with a 5-2 win over Fairfield Thursday evening.
Fairfield, coming into the night with a bracket-best 18-8 record, had been state-ranked during stretches of the season. With Westin Stutzman taking the hill for Fairfield, all signs pointed advantage Falcons. But that changed quickly after the first inning.
Fairfield loaded the bases with no outs in the top of the first, but failed to get a run across after Valley hurler Lucas Walters induced a pop out and two strikeouts to get out of the jam. In the bottom half, singles from Tanner Trippiedi and Wes Melanson, followed by a walk to Russ Paxton loaded the bases, allowed Ethan Yates to get the big hit with a solid single, scoring two.
“Tanner coming out hitting the first pitch of the inning for a base hit for us along with (Wes Melanson) backing him with another hit right behind them, that calmed them down,” said Tippecanoe Valley head coach Greg Prater. “They didn’t seem too nervous, they seemed to be having fun here tonight. That’s what we’ve always said, just have fun and good things will happen if you have fun.”
Following a Melanson double in the third, Paxton made it 3-0 on a sharp single up the middle. Yates added his third RBI of the night with another single to center, and at 4-0, Stutzman was pulled from the game and Valley was well on their way.
“We worked a lot on fastballs this week and we knew he had a good breaking ball,” said Prater of Stutzman, who came into the night third in the state with eight pitching wins. “Trying to figure the situations when he was going to throw the curve ball. We picked that up pretty good and learned that better than in the past. From game one in the season to this one, both teams had gotten phenomenally better and couldn’t be more proud of them.”
Payton Mills added an RBI single in the fourth for Valley’s fifth run.
Fairfield would again load the bases in the sixth with no outs, and this time were able to get two runs out of it. After Walters walked Felipe Arevalo to open the frame, Paxton was brought in to pitch and promptly threw eight balls in nine pitches for a pair of walks that loaded the bases. Paxton would get a strikeout of the next hitter, but walk in a run then allow a sacrifice fly to Branden Garrison. Paxton, however, would get Cordell Hofer into a fielder’s choice to get out of the jam.
Fairfield (18-9) would go in order in the seventh, the last out at third base with Arevalo thrown out trying to stretch a double into a triple.
Walters would allow three hits and walk five, but struck out seven and allowed just the one run. Paxton would get the two-inning save for the Vikings. Stutzman took the loss in his final game with the Falcons, giving up seven hits and four runs in two-plus innings.
Valley (12-9) had Melanson and Trippiedi each score two runs and Paxton had a hit and two walks to pace Valley’s offense.
The Vikings will take on either NorthWood or West Noble in Saturday’s second semi-final. The Panthers and Chargers play Friday night to determine the semi-finalist opponent for the Vikings. Angola and Wawasee play in Saturday’s first semi-final. The championship game is slated for Monday morning.