Cardinal Ritter Raiders Rip Raiders of Wapahani

By Pete Cava

PBR Indiana Correspondent

INDIANAPOLIS– The Cardinal Ritter Raiders defeated the Wapahani Raiders 10-4 in the IHSAA Class 2A championship game at Victory Field Fridaynight. 

Cardinal Ritter (28-3), playing for all the marbles in baseball for the first time in school history, backed a complete-game performance by senior right-hander Blake Malatestinic with a 10-hit attack and some flashy fielding by senior shortstop Alex Vela. 

It was the second state title in less than a year for the Indianapolis school. Cardinal Ritter’s football squad claimed its fifth IHSAA football crown last autumn.  

Malatestinic topped off his prep career with a four-strikeout, one-walk performance while giving up nine hits and three earned runs. The triumph was a dream come true for the eastern Illinois University recruit, whose last trip to the state championships came as a spectator his freshman year, after Cardinal Ritter bowed out in the semistate round.  

“I was here then, and I’m back now,” said the 5-foot-10, 170-pound hurler, who went 12-1 this season. “It’s a great feeling. I know that all of these guys have worked hard and I’ve worked hard. We’re a blessed team, thanks be to God. We have so much passion, it’s awesome.”

Alex Vela, Cardinal Ritter’s senior shortstop and leadoff man, went 2-for-3 at the plate, scored three runs, knocked in another, swiped a pair of bases and turned in two web gems in the field.  

“I’m glad he was able to showcase what he can do,” said Malatestinic. “He was spectacular. I give him a hard time about his glove. We call it ‘The Flapjack,’ because it’s so floppy. It’s like 13 inches and he’s had it since he was five years old. We just joke around that he makes all those plays in the hole because he has ‘The Flapjack.’” 

Wapahani (19-12) had ducks on the pond in the first two innings, but failed to capitalize. Tysen Lipscomb led off the bottom of the first for the Selma school with a single. Lipscomb was forced at second by Stephen Vickery, who stole second but died there. 

Brevan Rivers cracked a two-out base hit in the second and advanced on Isaiah Brosher’s infield single. The threat ended when Malatestinic retired the next batter on a fly to right. 

Cardinal Ritter broke the ice in the top of the third, sending nine men to the plate against Alec Summers, the senior righty who started for Wapahani. Alex Vela grounded a single through the left side and stole second.  

“My first at-bat didn’t go so well,” said Vela, who started out with a pop-up to second. “Kind of jittery, I guess. After that I said, ‘I’m here, I’ll do my thing,’ and I did pretty good.”  

Kyle Price followed with a base hit off the glove of Wapahani’s third baseman that sent Vela galloping to the plate. With a full count, Jake Kluemper lined a shot to the warning track in right for a triple. After an intentional walk to Malatestinic, courtesy runner Joey Gruber took off for second. Gruber managed to elude a pickoff throw while Kluemper raced home for a 3-0 Ritter advantage.  

Vela's defensive work stymied Wapahani in the bottom of the inning. Tysen Lipscomb led off with a hit to left and moved up on Stephen Vickery's sacrifice. When Garett Stanley drilled a grounder toward the hole, Vela dove to his right, gloved the ball and fired to third to nail Lipscomb. 

“That’s something he does all the time,” said Dave Scott, Cardinal Ritter’s coach for the past 11 seasons. “Our third basemen always know if Alex goes to the right (with a runner coming from second), you better get back to the bag, because he’s comin’ that way.”  

Ritter made it 6-0 in the top of the fourth. Dillon Olejnik chased Summers with a one-out triple down the right field line. Chandler Wise, who started the game at shortstop for Wapahani, took over for Summers, who moved to second base with Stephen Vickery shifting from second to short. Vela greeted Wise with a run-scoring hit to right. Walks to Kyle Price and Malatestinic loaded the bases, and Ben Egenolf's single through short plated two more runs. 

Wapahani made it 6-3 in bottom of the fifth. Isaiah Brosher reached first on an error and Braxton Davis beat out an infield hit. A wild pitch moved up the runners, and when Tysen Lipscomb drew an intentional walk, Wapahani had the bases loaded with nobody out. Stephen Vickery blooped a single to center to score Brosher, and two more runs came in on Garett Stanley's base hit to left. 

“We knew that this Wapahani team is as scrappy as can be,” said Coach Scott. “We knew that they were gonna do whatever they could to scrap and claw, and they were never gonna give up.” 

Cardinal Ritter answered with a four-run sixth. Vela led off with a base on balls, Kyle Price singled and Jake Kluemper drew a walk to fill the bases. Vela scored on Malatestinic’s grounder that went for an error. Two more runs came in on fielder’s choice plays. The final tally came on a rundown play between first and second that allowed Ben Egenolf to race home from third. 

Brevan Rivers took the mound for Wapahni in the top of the seventh and pitched a scoreless frame with two strikeouts.  

Wapahani made it 10-4 in its last time at bat on Garett Stanley’s double, a wild pitch and an infield out. The game ended with another sensational fielding play by Vela on a grounder to short.  

“He makes those kind of plays, like the one at the end, every night and we just take it for granted,” said Coach Scott. “Because those are the kind of things he does every single night. He’s a talented kid.”  

Ben Egenolf collected three runs batted in for Cardinal Ritter with a pair of hits while Kyle Price chipped in with two singles. 

Tysen Lipscomb, Garett Stanley and Isaiah Brosher had two hits apiece for Wapahani. 

Cardinal Ritter closed out its season with 14 wins in its last 15 contests, including seven in a row. For coach Brian Dudley’s Wapahani club, the loss snapped an eight-game win streak that dated back to May 17.

Caught on the Fly: A crowd of 2,782 watched the two-hour, 32-minute contest, which began under mostly sunny skies with temperatures in the mid-80s and a southerly 13-mph wind.

The L.V. Phillips Mental Attitude for Class 2A went to Blake Malatestinic. At the recent Cardinal Ritter Baccalaureate Ceremony, the school’s administration, faculty and staff honored Malatestinic with the Outstanding Class Leader Award. Malatestinic, a member of the National Honor Society, did volunteer work at Wheeler Mission.

Asked about his post-season plans, Alex Vela said: “I’m gonna relax. But I still have a decision to make about college.”  

For Cardinal Ritter coach Dave Scott, Friday night’s victory is one of several milestones this month. Sunday, he’ll celebrate Father’s Day with his wife and two sons, Scott and Drew. June also marks back-to-back birthdays for the Scott family. Dave’s is June 26, while Drew turns a year old the following day. 

One of Coach Scott’s relatives heads to Victory Field Saturday, hoping for similar success. “Brad Pearson, Cathedral’s pitching coach, is Dave’s cousin,” explained Sarah Scott, the Cardinal Ritter skipper’s wife. “Brad’s here tonight, helping me keep an eye on the kids.” The Irish meet Penn for the Class 4A crown at 5:30 p.m.

Brian Dudley, who led Wapahani to the 2014 state 2A title, is a member of the Indiana Baseball Hall of Fame. Dudley, in his 34th year at the helm of the Raiders, has 716 career wins against 288 losses. He notched his 700th with a 9-1 win over Randolph Southern on April 12. 

“I Teach My Kid To Hit And Steal,” read the T-shirt worn by Wapahani fan Sheree Hoover, who has two young sons who play baseball. Ms. Hoover, who had the shirt specially made, was on hand to root for her nephew, Wapahani starting pitcher Alec Summers.

Summers will enter Northwest Ohio University in Lima, Ohio, this fall.

Pete Cava is the author of “Tales From the Cubs Dugout” and “Indiana-Born Major League Baseball Players: A Biographical Dictionary, 1871-2014.”