SYRACUSE – A thriller in game one and a much less drama-filled game two saw Angola and NorthWood do their parts to reach the championship of the Class 3-A Wawasee Baseball Sectional in semi-final games played Saturday.
ANGOLA 9, WAWASEE 8
A suicide squeeze pushed Angola into the final after a very entertaining opening game Saturday morning.
Jack Hilyard laid down the bunt that brought in a hustling Ryan Brandt from third for the walk-off run in the bottom of the seventh. Angola opened the inning down 8-7 but started things off with a walk to Kyle Farnham, and after Wawasee got a minor gift when Aaron Chao hit into a fielder’s choice, Chao stole second and came to third on a throwing error. Chao would then score on a another error. After Angola used an intentional walk and infield hit to load the bases, Hilyard did the dramatic with the suicide squeeze to win it, Brandt scoring uncontested.
Jarrett Gibson gave Angola a stunning 6-3 lead after a bases-clearing triple in the fourth, but the Warriors hung a five-spot in the fifth. Parker Young hit a sacrifice fly to get a run back, then Carter Woody hit a two-run homer to knot the game at six. Austin Baker later added an RBI single, then hung himself in a rundown long enough for Grant Brooks to steal home, pushing the score to 8-6.
Chao, who was intentionally walked his first two plate appearances, saw one pitch in the fifth and promptly hit it well over the 320 sign in right to pull the Hornets within one. The Angola senior, an Eastern Illinois commit, is hitting .485 this season and will be the focal point of Monday’s championship as one of the state’s top pitchers.
Wawasee had a chance to tack on more runs, but left the bases loaded in the seventh and had nine left on base in the game.
“He’s a heckuva player,” Wawasee head coach Brent Doty said of Chao. “You don’t want to let their guy beat you, you’re trying to make everybody else beat you. That was the first two decisions. We were back and forth in the fifth, his third at bat, I thought we’d roll the dice, take a chance. We were up two at the time and so the home run he hits, we’re still up one.
“The seventh, we can’t put the winning run on base so we had to go to him. The tying run was on, you have to pitch to him in the seventh and he hits a ground ball, almost turned a double play. That was a big swing. Couldn’t get out of the inning there, but it just didn’t roll our way.”
Kam Salazar had three hits and a pair of runs scored for the Warriors, and Brooks, Baker, Levi Brown and Ethan Garza all had two hits. Woody and Brown both scored two runs for Wawasee.
The Warriors see their season end in disappointment at 15-11 overall. Angola makes the championship game at 14-12.
“Our team all year, we’ve had good resolve,” Doty said. “We’ve really never said die. We’re always competing, always battling whether we’re down one or up two. They competed and tried to win to the best of their ability until they said hey, we’re done and can’t play anymore. That’s a testament to our guys, their competitiveness, their fight and their will to win.”
NORTHWOOD 8, TIPPECANOE VALLEY 1
Where game one was wild and full of suspense, NorthWood’s win over Valley was quite the opposite.
Matt Dutkowski pitched a gem, not allowing a hit until one out in the sixth inning, and gave up just two hits overall. Dutkowski also struck out 10 and walked just one as he finished off the Vikes by striking out the side in the seventh.
NorthWood, which scored only 13 runs in its final four regular season games, have scored 13 runs now in its two sectional wins. A Viking error allowed the first two Panther runs to score in the second, then Jack Wysong followed up with an RBI double to make it 3-0.
Sergio Lira Ayala added a bases loaded walk, and Dutkowski and his battery mate, Trey Allman, added RBI singles in the fourth to run the lead to 6-0. Dutkowski helped his own cause with three hits and Allman had a pair of hits.
Ayala tripled in the fifth and came home on a Kyle Sellers sacrifice fly, and Cooper Davis rounded out the Panther scoring with a RBI double in the sixth.
“This stems from our conference season, how important it was to put pressure on teams early with our bats and with our speed,” said NorthWood head coach AJ Risedorph. “When you jump on teams early, you put the pressure on them and our pitchers can be a little more relaxed and not have to throw seven innings of pressure situations. They can throw three or four nice, comfortable innings and if a stressful inning happens, then they are going to be fine.”
Valley’s lone run came in that sixth inning, where Tanner Trippiedi broke up the no-hitter with a flare to right field and came around to score after Wes Melanson hit a solid shot up the middle.
“We talked about this a lot at practice and preparing for this game that it’s the little things that make champions,” said Tippecanoe Valley head coach Greg Prater. “I mentioned how many times NorthWood has been here and won it, and the crew that AJ has, we knew what we were up against. We were positive after the win against Fairfield we had the momentum coming in, but we didn’t show it today.
“We didn’t have a lot of good at-bats today, and honestly, we didn’t play that well defensively. When you are playing a team like NorthWood, that will get you knocked out of a tournament pretty quick.”
Trippiedi took the loss, giving up six runs on six hits, just two runs earned, and walked four with no strikeouts.
Valley, which won its first sectional game since 2012 Thursday over Fairfield, caps its season 12-10.
NorthWood (17-7) looks forward to the challenge from Chao and the Hornets. Chao comes into the championship second in the state with a 9-0 record with an 0.51 ERA and a state-leading 116 strikeouts in just 54.2 innings. He struck out 17 Lakeland batters Wednesday night.
“If you’re not doing anything Monday, you better be here,” said Risedorph, whose Panthers are seeking its seventh straight title and eighth in nine years. “It’s going to be phenomenal. It’s one of those rare occasions where you’re going to have two great pitchers on the mound – Chao from Angola and Holcomb for us – it’s going to be awesome. We’re not going to change a thing. We are going to continue doing what we’ve done all year.”