By Nick Goralczyk
MIDDLEBURY – If you were enjoying a nice nap on this sunny holiday weekend, the Warsaw baseball team has a message for you: WAKE UP.
“Everyone is sleeping on the Tigers, don’t sleep on us.”
That message was from an ecstatic, and soaked, Alex Light. The Tiger senior had just hit a walk-off single to send his team to a 3-2 win and to Monday’s Class 4-A Northridge baseball sectional title game and was immediately met by a swarm of his teammates. That was followed by local print and TV reporters with mics and cameras in his face wanting the must-have interview of the game, an interview ultimately cut short when Light was given a water cooler bath by his hyped teammates.
And it was warranted, all of it. The Tigers had trailed the host team Northridge, though the Raiders were visitors on the scoreboard, the entire game, earning just two hits off of Raider starter Andrew Gerber. So with Warsaw facing two outs and a 2-1 deficit in the bottom of the seventh, things seemed bleak at best.
And just like everyone expected, with two outs and the season on the line, Lukas Maier laid down a bunt.
“We told him going in that bunting would be hist best option,” explained Warsaw coach Andy Manes. “He’s been struggling a little bit lately but he saw a pitch that he liked to bunt, he bunted it back to the pitcher but he’s fast enough to kind of make up for that.”
Just like that, the tying run was on base.
Khareus Miller stepped into the box and patiently watched four straight balls pass by to give him a ticket to first base.
The team that had just a handful of baserunners all day suddenly had the winning run standing at first and a senior just itching to make his mark at the plate.
“I got up there and I just thought about my team,” Light said, coming off his whirlwind-inducing moment. “We lost last year so this just means a lot to me. I wanted to get this done for me, the other seniors and everyone.”
So what about the pitch itself?
“Dude, I tell ya, I saw a fastball and I just had to jump at it,” Light was clearly reliving the moment that had happened just a few minutes before and he was loving every second of it.
Light crushed the pitch well over the left fielder’s head, allowing both Maier and Miller to score with ease. The Tigers dugout had already cleared onto the field as Miller made his way down the third base line.
“We still had confidence going into the bottom of the seventh,” Manes said. “We hit the ball, just right at (Northridge). It was not for a lack of confidence. We just needed a couple of balls, hits to go our way and finally, in the seventh inning, we broke through.”
Northridge plated its only two runs during the first two innings of the game with an RBI triple from University of Kentucky commit Carter Gilbert in the first and a sac bunt RBI from Trevor Brown in the second.
Warsaw did not get its first baserunner until the third inning when Miller reached with a base-on-balls. The Tigers finally got on the board in the fourth with an RBI from Jette Woodward.
Joey Springer picked up the win for Warsaw, going all seven innings. Springer threw 93 pitches, gave up seven hits and tallied five strikeouts. Gerber pitched the whole game for the Raiders, giving up four hits and striking out three Tiger batters.
Warsaw (14-13) will return to Middlebury on Monday to take on Elkhart at 11 a.m. for the sectional title. The Lions enjoyed an 11-1 win over Warsaw at Tiger Field this past Monday.
Elkhart 8, Penn 5
Sam Russo picked up the win for Elkhart in a 8-5 decision over Penn Saturday morning. Russo went 6.2 innings to get the win for the Lions. Elkhart plated seven runs in the bottom of the fifth and added an eighth in the sixth.
Penn scored all five of its runs in the top of the seventh but the rally fell short.