By Mike Deak
SYRACUSE – There would be no seventh inning shenanigans this time around.
With the bad memories of what happened to them just five days ago, Wawasee ensured there would be no repeat nightmare in pounding Lakeland, 8-1, Thursday in the Wawasee Baseball Sectional.
Lakeland had the feather in its cap, having rallied from down seven to catch and then beat Wawasee last Saturday in LaGrange, a 15-14 wake-up call for the Warriors in its regular season finale.
The Lakers, however, would catch no momentum whatsoever on Thursday as Grant Brooks was outstanding on the mound for the Warriors. Brooks allowed just one bloop hit in the sixth and Lakeland’s only run came unearned on a throwing error in the same inning. Otherwise Brooks issued just one walk and struck out nine as he was on quite a roll from start to finish.
“He was on top of his game,” began Wawasee head coach Brent Doty of Brooks, who had a no-hitter through 5.1 innings. “He’s pitched like that throughout the season and has been dialed in. Testament to him, he puts in a lot of work, gets after it. He was light’s out.”
Wawasee managed to push around its first run without the benefit of a hit. Parker Young walked and took second a wild pitch as the bottom of the second began to unwind. Another wild one from Lakeland starter Brayden Bontrager had Young moving, and while the team’s catcher, the former Wawasee quarterback decided to turn on the afterburners and scored all the way from second without a throw.
Kam Salazar scored on an RBI single from Colt Dolsen in the third, then drove in a run of his own in the fourth. Adding a pair of stolen bases into the fray, Salazar got mad at a pitch in the sixth and flicked the ball a mere 318 to the base of the left field wall for a double. He would score his third run of the night when Brooks ripped a two-run double down the right field line to put the Warriors up six.
Wawasee also had seven stolen bases on the night, and coaxed five walks from Lakeland pitching.
“We talked about it for a quick minute after the game on Saturday, when we have opportunities to win, we have to put teams away,” Doty said. “That’s kind of what’s happened with teams throughout the course of the season for us, so it was a focus. We wanted to work some deep counts, have good at-bats, score some runs early, put the pressure back on them so we could take care of business tonight.”
Jacob Meek and Lucas Ringler both added RBIs for the Warriors (16-12), which punches its ticket to the sectional semi-finals and a date Saturday with Jimtown. First pitch is set for 10 a.m., which will precede NorthWood and West Noble, an approximate 1 p.m. start in the other semi-final.
“We’ll go back and look at the scouting reports on (Jimtown) and try to formulate a game plan,” Doty said of Saturday’s matchup against the Jimmies, who beat Wawasee 13-10 in the consolation game of the Wawasee Invite in April. “You get ready to play. You take care of your own guys, we’ll take care of ourselves and hopefully give us a chance to win.”