Times Sports Editor
The Northview baseball team has had plenty of time to reflect on the excitement of winning the program's first sectional title since 2005. Now its focus is on repeating what that 2005 squad did in winning the regional and making the trip to semi-state.
Coach Scott McDonald expected a lot of excitement following the sectional title and noted that it has been a special week.
The excitement has settled some, but the kids were still talking about the entire process from the last out to the ride home. The emotions of the kids were simply elation over winning our first sectional since 2005," McDonald said. "The emotions for me personally were numerous including sharing a sectional championship with the kids, their families, and especially my dad, mom, wife, kids, and aunt. Sharing the moment with people that you care about it what makes winning a 4A sectional so special."
This week the focus has been fully turned towards the regional match-ups at Avon High School has Northview (21-8) takes on a Roncalli squad (20-8) that defeated Warren Central for the sectional title at Pendleton Heights. The teams take the field at 10 a.m. and the game will be followed by Brownsburg (17-10) taking on Anderson (22-8) with the championship game slated for 7 p.m.
McDonald and his coaching staff has had the opportunity to find out as much as possible about the Rebels in preparation for the 10 a.m. showdown.
"They have a good pitcher that we fully expect to see that will throw in the mid 80's with a decent curveball and change up. They put the ball in play, which puts a premium on our defense. Contrary to our defense, according to reports that I have gotten, they seem to struggle some on defense."
University of Cincinnati signee, Colin Hawk is one of the team's leader as a pitcher and a strong armed shortstop. The scouting report on him notes his arm, above average defensive range and good defensive hands. At the plate, he's got good bat control and quick hands.
Third baseman Nick Wright is signed to attend Bellarmine University and middle infielder Jason Simpkins is signed to attend Franklin and play baseball.
The Knights have played some excellent baseball down the stretch following a brief slide against top competition to end the regular season. While the Knights' offense has had some ups and downs over the course of the season, what hasn't been a problem is the pitching.
"Going into the season with the new bat restrictions, we felt really strong about our pitching. All of our kids have done a very good job at pitching to contact and avoiding a high number of walks per seven innings," McDonald said. "Playing a difficult schedule like we have, they have learned that strikeouts are not going to happen easily, therefore, they have no fear of challenging hitters. We will need to do more of the same today, throw strikes and trust our defense."
TJ Decker should get the start in the regional opener against Roncalli and he was excellent in gaining two wins to get the Knights to the sectional championship game. Decker threw back-to-back complete games, giving up just five earned runs over the course of 14 innings of work, striking out 16 and walking only two. He could be following by Kodie Girton in the title game as the Indiana State recruit allowed just one hit in seven innings against Terre Haute South in the sectional title game. Junior Craig Peters will also be available along with Brock Smith and Brock Wheeler as experienced arms. Coleman Craig and freshman Damon Bass have also seen double-digit innings of work.
"We will need to play good defense, score on a high percentage of chances that we get, and keep our strikeouts on offense down," McDonald said. "Our pitching is going to be there for us, we just need to provide the pitchers run support to keep the pressure off of them."
The Knights are also hoping to keep its offense on track during regional play. Northview is going to need to continue getting hits in important situations and not letting teams off the hook with runners in scoring position.
Decker was big in the sectional as he was 5-for-9 at the plate, scoring six runs and reaching base 10 times in total. Zach Hull had a 4-for-10 sectional series with four RBI's, which included a pivotal 3-run homer against Mooresville. Peters had three hits and scored three times in the sectional and Conner Pierce added three hits and three runs scored. Certainly not to be left out is sophomore Conner Ganly, who produced four RBI's in the championship game. Bryant Pestoff and Devin Clark each added a pair of hits
"Our hitting appears to have come and gone, but again going back to the schedule, we have seen great pitching all season," McDonald said. "We are going to take the same approach as we have every game, look for the ball away and go with the pitch. Roncalli's defense being questionable, we will shorten up with two strikes and just try and put the ball in play. That approach can take us to the place we want to end up."