No. 19 Fishers Knocks off No. 10 Carmel

By Pete Cava

PBR Indiana Correspondent

After a rocky first inning, Fishers senior right-hander Nathaniel Rhodes pitched six shutout innings as the Tigers clawed back to defeat Carmel 7-3 Wednesday night in the opening game of the Class 4A Sectional No. 8 tournament.  The contest took place at Dunker Field, on the Hazel Dell Elementary School campus in Noblesville. 

The tenth-ranked Greyhounds put three runs on the board in the top of the first.  Rhodes walked leadoff hitter Thomas Baldwin, who moved to second on David Layman’s bunt single.  After Tony Giannini walked to load the bases, Rhodes balked for Carmel’s first score.  

Back-to-back sacrifice flies by Evan Nixon and Conner McGeehan gave the Greyhounds a 3-0 advantage.  

The lead vanished in the bottom of the frame, thanks in part to shaky defense by Carmel (19-7).  Jacob Totman opened the first with a base on balls off Ryan Campbell, the Greyhounds’ senior righty.  Totman stole second, and took third one out later on Griffin Hulecki’s single.  Baldwin, Carmel’s left fielder, couldn’t come up with the ball and Totman raced home as Hulecki took second.  

A walk to clean-up hitter Taylor Canter put runners at first and second for Fishers.  When Brandon Yoho singled to left, Hulecki scored to cut the deficit to 3-2.  Mike Chakiry followed with a comebacker to Campbell, who fired to second for the force.  The throw went into center field, however, and Canter trotted home to make it 3-all. 

Fishers added three more runs in the third, aided by another Carmel miscue.  Yoho drew a one-out walk and went home on Chakiry’s double to right-center.  Chakiry tried to score when Nicholas Podlagar followed with a line single down the left field line.  Chakiry was dead at the plate, however, on a strong throw from Baldwin to Giannini. 

Podlagar moved to second on the play, and came in on a double to right-center by Joe Rura.  Brad Burton then hit a lazy grounder to second that skipped under Layman’s glove, and Rura came home to make it 6-3.  

Campbell’s night ended after a single by Totman, and right-hander Matt Rearick came in from the bullpen to get the third out. 

Rearick scattered three hits the rest of the way.  He gave up an unearned run in the fifth when Carmel committed its fourth error of the game.  Rura led off with a single, went to second on a wild pitch and took third on an infield out.  Rura held third when Totman grounded out, and after a free pass to Connor Christiansen, Hulecki bounced to third.  When Evan Nixon couldn't come up with it, Rura came in for a 7-3 Tigers lead.  

Rura, Fishers’ senior left fielder, went 3-for-4, knocked in a run and scored twice.  

After surrendering three singles and a pair of walks in the first, Rhodes held Carmel to four hits and three bases on balls the rest of the way.   ”It was hard to get used to the mound,” he said of his first-inning woes.  “There’s a little bit of a slick spot where my foot steps, because I usually get really (to the) left on the mound.  It was tough at first, but then I was fine.” 

Rhodes, a Marshall University commit, used breaking balls to keep Carmel in check.  Asked what pitch he relied on against the Greyhounds, Rhodes replied:  “My curve ball, definitely.  The fastball, my velocity wasn't all there tonight.  I think I only hit 86 (mph) one time.  My curve and my other pitches were working fine.”  

Rhodes finished the night with seven strikeouts. 

“He settled in and pitched really well the last six innings,” said Fishers coach Matt Cherry.  “He was leaving his fastball up too much.  He couldn’t find his arm slot off the mound in that first inning.  So we went to his curve ball.  He was able to find that.  We used that more as his pitch, and used the fastball to set up his curve ball.”    

Cherry was pleased that his 4A No. 19 Tigers (22-9) dug their way out of the early hole.  “I’m really proud of our guys for answering that first inning knock-out punch,” Cherry said.  “We could have fallen apart.”  

Played under threatening skies, the game lasted one hour and 55 minutes.  

4A Sectional No. 8 continues Thursday with a doubleheader.  Zionsville meets Hamilton Southeastern in the first game at 5:30 while North Central plays Westfield at 8:00 p.m. in the nightcap. 

Fishers will play Noblesville in a semifinal match Monday at 10:00 a.m.  Thursday’s winners square off that afternoon at 12:30, with the championship contest set for 7:30 p.m. Monday.