Prep Baseball Report

1A State Championship: Aggressive University Tops Washington Township for First Title

Steve Krah
PBR Indiana Correspondent

INDIANAPOLIS — University got to its second straight IHSAA Class 1A baseball state championship game with aggressive play.

The Trailblazers used that formula to finish their business Monday, June 17 at Victory Field.

University (22-10-1) defeated Washington Township 4-1 to open the 53rd annual State Finals.

“With a 3-0 lead and 4-1 lead, you’ve got to force them to make plays,” said Trailblazers coach Chris Estep, who saw his team steal two bases and have three runners thrown out at the plate. “Their pitchers did a fantastic job. They were mixing up breaking balls, change-ups, fastballs. They were working us up in the zone. “You don’t know if you’re going to get another opportunity to score. I’m going to take a chance with a guy throwing a wet baseball.”

Because of rain, the game started at 6:06 p.m. Eastern Time — 36 minutes later than originally scheduled.

“We had to stay aggressive like that,” said Estep. “That’s how we’ve been all year.”

Senior right-hander Reese Sharp (3-0) was the winning pitcher. Using his change-up as a put-away pitch, he yielded four hits and three walks while striking out 17. He faced 29 batters and struck out the side in the first, fourth, fifth and sixth innings. He ran the count full on four batters.

A 32-minute lightning in delay in the second inning proved beneficial for Sharp.

“It allows him to take a breath and go out there and perform the way he needs to,” said Estep. “He struggled in the first couple of innings with pitch count. He was so amped up. “Giving him a couple runs (University tallied three runs in the top of the first) was pretty awesome.”

Estep credited senior catcher Kolton Stevens for his performance in receiving the stuff of Sharp, a 2019 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft selection of the San Francisco Giants.

Sharp and Stevens have worked together for a long time, between high school and travel baseball.

“I love the kid,” said Sharp. “He’s probably one of the hardest-working catchers I’ve ever seen.”

Sharp finished off Washington Township (23-7) on eight pitches in the bottom of the seventh with a groundout, caught-looking strikeout and swinging strikeout.

“That team’s definitely a very solid team hitting,” said Sharp. “They stuck in there. I left a couple of balls up and they punished them. “My off-speed pitches were my most successful. When I started locating my fastball, it made everything so much better.”

University had a runner thrown out at the plate to end a score-free seventh.

With one out, sophomore Tyler Galyean produced his third infield single of the game and stole second base.

Sophomore Adam Oxley knocked a two-out single to left off sophomore left-hander Steven Hernandez and Senators senior left fielder Jared Armstrong threw to senior catcher Michael Funk to cut down Galyean for the third out.

Sharp struck out all three Washington Township batters he faced in the bottom of the sixth.

The Trailblazers went ahead 4-1 with one run in the of the sixth.

Sophomore Matt Moore cracked a one-out single to right and Stevens drew a walk before Hernandez relieved senior right-hander William Roberts (9-3) on the mound for Washington Township.

Hernandez struck out the first batter he faced (looking).

A fielding error off the bat of senior Dawson Estep allowed Moore to score.

The Senators pulled to within 3-1 with one run against Sharp in the bottom of the fifth.

With one out, Steven Hernandez doubled to right and scored on a two-out double to center by senior Matt Rogers.

Sharp ended the threat with his third strikeout of the running (it was looking).

University left a runner at first base against Roberts in a scoreless fifth.

Galyean placed a two-out single up the middle before Roberts coaxed an inning-ending fly-out.

Washington Township left runners at first and second against Sharp in the bottom of the fourth.

Sophomore James Hernandez lashed a one-out double to right and senior Myles DeBold drew a walk. All three outs were on swinging strikeouts.

The Trailblazers had two runners thrown out at the plate in a scoreless top of the fourth.

Moore stroked a one-out single to left to snap Roberts’ streak of batters retired at nine.

Stevens followed with a single, sending Moore to third base. 

Moore was tagged out at the plate when sophomore Ben Ewer reached on a fielder’s choice — third baseman Armstrong to catcher Funk.

Estep singled to left and Senators junior left fielder Chaz Brown threw to ball to Funk to cut down courtesy runner Thomas Price (who spelled Stevens) for the third out.

Sharp retired the side in order in a scoreless Washington Township third with a infield pop-out, caught-looking strikeout and groundout.

Roberts set University down 1-2-3 in a scoreless third with a fly-out, groundout and swinging strikeout.

The Senators stranded a runner at second base against Sharp in a score-free second.

DeBold smacked a lead-off single to left and stole second base. The other three batters were retired on a fly-out and two strikeouts (one looking).

There was a 32-minute lightning delay during he frame.

The Trailblazers went down in order against Roberts in the top of the second with two groundouts and a swinging strikeout.

Washington Township left the bases loaded against Sharp in the bottom of a scoreless first.

All three outs were strikeouts (two looking). There were also walks to Steven Hernandez and Rogers while Armstrong was hit by a pitch.

University scored three runs against Roberts in the top of the first inning.

It took University two pitches to tally the first run.

Estep rapped a first-pitched single to right and scored on Sharp’s first-pitch triple to deep left.

Junior courtesy runner Ethan Johnson (who subbed for Sharp) crossed the plate on Galyean’s infield single.

Junior Alex Washlock walked, stole second base, moved to third base on Galyean’s single and scored on an errant pick-off throw.

“We were a little jittery,” said Senators coach Randy Roberts. “After that first inning, William settled down. “If you don’t hit and score runs, you have to play perfect and major leaguers don’t play perfect. “When you’re not scoring runs, every pitch is huge and you have to make every play.

“We tried to adjust to (the speed of Sharp). But we don’t have an arm to replicate (Sharp). He was better than us.”

The game situation essentially took away one of Washington Township’s offensive weapons.

“(Small ball) is something we’re very good at,” said Roberts. “We just weren’t in a position to do that.”

University went 15-1 down the stretch. The Trailblazers last lost was May 18 at Linton-Stockton. University went 28-7 and finished as 1A state runners-up to Daleville with a 4-2 loss in nine innings in 2018.

University senior right fielder Nate Shatkowski was presented with the L.V. Phillips Award for 1A.

To make the title game, University reigned at the Bethesda Christian Sectional, Morristown Regional and Jasper Semistate while Washington Township won the Washington Township Sectional, South Bend Washington Regional and Plymouth Semistate.