Northview Knights march right into historic state finals berth at Victory Field
By STEVE FIELDS
For the Brazil Times
JASPER -- Northview's Braydon Tucker and Evansville Memorial's Drew Ashley matched each other for five innings Saturday afternoon in the 95-degree heat and humidity of Southwestern Indiana. With a berth in the Class 3A state championship game on the line, the contest was scoreless.
All the Knights needed was that one big inning, just like the conference, sectional and regional championship games.
"We always seem to get hot around the sixth or seventh inning. That's when all of our bats come alive. That's what we try to focus on, try to keep hitting the ball," senior Nate Thomas said.
But would it come against a pitcher like Ashley (7-3) and a team like Memorial (22-9)?
Northview erupted for five runs on four hits and two Memorial errors in the sixth inning and that was all the Knights needed for the 5-0 victory and a berth in the Class A state championship game on June 18 at Victory Field in Indianapolis.
"It's awesome. It's what we've been waiting for all year. It's so exciting. We're ready for it," Thomas said during the Northview celebration on Jasper High School's Ruxer Field.
Northview (24-6) will play Western (Howard) at 7 p.m. on Saturday, or 45 minutes following the Class 2A contest.
The accomplishment was not lost for a second on third-year coach Craig Trout, who will share that experience with his father and assistant coach Tony Trout.
"It's a dream for any coach to take a team to Victory Field and I think for me its an even bigger dream. I'm a young guy, but I'm going to enjoy it," Trout said.
Mitchell Howald led off Northview's fifth inning with a base hit. Then Jase Glassburn put down a perfect bunt, right down the line to the first baseman, a slow roller to sacrifice. But the first baseman looked up and bobbled the ball and Glassburn was safe. With runners on first and second and no outs, that turned out to be a key play.
Tucker, unknown to coach Trout, spotted the third baseman playing back, and put down another bunt, loading the bases with no outs.
Dalton Shaw hit a hard grounder to shortstop, who threw to home plate for the force out.
Pressure was on for the one timely hit and Thomas delivered. The senior hit a looping single up the middle over second base to drive in Glassburn and Tucker with the first runs. Andrew Osborn kept the rally going with another hit to bring in Trey Shaw, a courtesy runner for his brother.
With a 3-0 lead, the Knights weren't finished. Lancaster walked, France's ground ball led to a second out. Clawson, who missed an RBI opportunity in the fifth, delivered a run-scoring base hit to put Northview up 4-0. Andy Young, a pinch runner for Lancaster, raced home with the fifth run on a passed ball.
"We've been waiting on big innings and all of a sudden we got one there out of nowhere. We've kind of thrived on those and I'm just really proud of these guys. They did a great job," Trout said.
Tucker went back to the mound in the bottom of the sixth with a 5-0 lead.
"When we have Braydon on the mound, if we get a big inning like that we're pretty confident putting Braydon back out there. We're going to shut 'em down again, we're going to get the win," Dalton Shaw said.
Tucker gave up two hits in the sixth and two in the seventh, but no runs.
"It was (pressure filled) for a long time, but we usually score runs late in the game and that helps a lot," Tucker said.
This was a pressure-packed contest from beginning to the end. The heat challenged players who dressed in sweatshirts less than a month ago. And Northview's Tucker (2 strike outs) and Memorial's Ashley (3 strike outs) weren't mowing down batters, but counting on their defenses, thus spreading the pressure to all nine players on the field.
"We were clean (on defense). Mitchell (Howald) did a good job at shortstop. We had some great plays by Nate (Thomas) at second base, Luke (Lancaster) at first base, everybody all over the diamond did a great job," Trout said.
Tucker was shaking through the celebration, physically and emotionally drained by the seven-inning performance. The sophomore right hander scattered seven hits, struck out two and walked three while pitching the shutout.
"Gutsy performance. It's hot as heck out here and he did a great job out there. He stayed focused, he stayed balanced. He fought through the adversity and did a good job. Everything seemed to work and he looked good out there," Trout said.
Tucker (7-1) was prepared for the heat.
"I've been hydrating all week. A lot of the (Memorial) hits were going our way. The outfielders were getting good jumps on (balls hit). We had a couple of errors, but we just shook them off and got right back on it," Tucker said.
Through five innings, Memorial's Ashley was just as baffling to the Knights. Ashley faced just 13 batters (one over the minimum) through four innings.
"It think it was more of us trying to get used to his pitches, trying to figure out his arm angle that he has and stuff like that," Thomas said.
And you could see it coming in the fifth inning. With two outs in the fifth, Lancaster and Hayden France connected for back-to-back hits and a throwing error by Ashley moved them to third and second, respectively. A ground ball ended the inning.
Then Memorial challenged Tucker. With one out, the Tigers had runners on first and second. Tucker reached a little deeper for his second strike out of the day and a ground ball to Thomas ended the threat.
It was clear, the winning team not only had to beat the pitcher, but also a good defense and the heat.
"(The heat) concerns you at any level because guys have to go out and battle and especially when you have a guy pitching, he had to battle (on every pitch) the whole time. It's hard to keep focused, it's hard to keep hydrated, so for us to be able to do that was big," Trout said.
The Knights stayed focused and the huge turnout of Northview fans covered the infield in the post-game celebration.
"The community has backed us 100 percent and the kids understand that and they know they had a big (challenge) in front of them, but they did a heck of a job," Trout said.
Now its on to Victory Field and the state championship game.
"It's awesome. As a senior, we put in a lot of hard work and it's really paying off now all the work these guys have put in," Shaw said.
Northview 5, Evansville Memorial 0
Northview (AB-R-H-RBI) -- Howald ss 4-0-1-0, Glassburn cf 4-1-1-0, Tucker p 4-1-1-0, D. Shaw 4-0-0-0, T. Shaw cr 0-1-0-0, Thomas 2b 3-0-1-2, Osborn dh 3-1-1-0, Reinohl 3b 0-0-0-0, Lancaster 1b 2-0-1-0, Young pr 0-1-0-0, France rf 2-0-1-0, Clawson lf 3-0-1-0. Totals 29-5-8-4
Evansville Memorial (AB-R-H-RBI) -- Wimber 2b 3-0-0-0, Meeks cf 4-0-2-0, Ashley 2-0-0-0, Durchholz lf 3-0-1-0, Niehaus dh 4-0-0-0, Head rf, Evans 1b 4-0-0-0, Lindauer ss 3-0-3-0, Willming c 2-0-0-0, Burger ph 1-0-1-0, Lockard 3b 3-0-0-0. Totals 29-0-7-0.
E -- Howald, Ashley. DP -- Northview (France-Lancaster). LOB -- Nv 4, EM 9.
W -- Tucker (7-1). L -- Ashley (7-4).
Next game: Northview (24-6) plays Western (Howard) on June 17-18 in Class 3A state championship game at Victory Field in Indianapolis.