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Late Rally Lifts Roncalli Past Perry Meridian in County; Heritage Christian Snaps Cathedral's City Streak


Pete Cava
PBR Indiana Correspondent

INDIANAPOLIS – Victory Field again hosted the Marion County and Indianapolis City championships again this year, with Roncalli playing Perry Meridian for the County title in Monday’s first contest. 

In the nightcap, defending state 4A champion Cathedral came in gunning for a seventh consecutive City title against Heritage Christian. 

The evening got underway beneath sunny skies with little or no breeze and temperatures in the high eighties.        

COUNTY – RONCALLI 5, PERRY MERIDIAN 3 

Harrison Koppenhofer's two-out, two-run double broke a 3-3 deadlock as the Rebels scored three times in their last at-bat for a come-from-behind win over the Falcons in the Marion County championship tilt. 

Koppenhofer finished the evening with two of Roncalli's five hits and three runs batted in.  Junior southpaw Max Lundy started for the Rebels and got the win, while Hayden Harper, a senior right-hander, came on in relief for a two-out save. 

“We like to come from behind, I guess. It's just kind of our trademark,” said Koppenhofer, the Rebels’ rangy 6-4, 190-pound senior shortstop 

“I guess every Southside game is something of a rivalry,” said Roncalli skipper Aaron Kroll, whose Class 4A No. 6 Rebels (19-5) claimed their ninth consecutive victory.  “We're certainly happy with being able to get a win against a Southside team so close to us.” 

Perry Meridian (7-17), led by first-year coach Jake Banwart, had won four of its last five heading into Monday's contest.  “Credit to Perry, they played a really, really good game,” said Kroll. “They were very impressive, I thought.” 

Roncalli's Nick Schnell led off the bottom of the first with a 400-foot shot to left-center that fell for a triple.  One out later, Schnell rode home when Koppenhofer ripped an 0-1 delivery off the left field wall for a two-base hit. 

The Rebels added another run off Perry Meridian starter Charles Joyce in the second.  Tommy Hansen opened the frame with a double to left-center and took third on a wild pitch.  Hayden Harper's fly ball to right plated Hansen for a 2-0 Roncalli advantage. 

Brian Keeney kept the inning alive with a two-out walk.  With Schnell at the plate, Coach Banwart ordered an intentional walk as Roncalli fans booed lustily.  The strategy paid off when Mark Cobb lined to the pitcher for the final out. 

The game's momentum abruptly shifted in the top of the third.  After retiring the first seven Perry Meridian batters, Roncalli starter Max Lundy gave up a single to Alex Hooten and Joyce, batting ninth, was hit by a pitch.  One out later, Alex Morgan walked to load the bases.  Caden Reed's single to center brought in courtesy runner Logan Dingness for the Falcon's first run. 

Joe Genier followed with a fly ball to right where Tommy Hansen, battling the sun, muffed an over-the-shoulder catch.  Pinch-runner Holdon Storm and Morgan raced home on the error as Perry Meridian took a 3-2 lead. 

Joyce eased his way out of a fix in the bottom of the fourth.  The junior right-hander gave up a leadoff base on balls to Keeney, and one out later issued another intentional walk to Schnell.  Harper went to third on Cobb's fly ball to right and when Schnell stole second, the Rebels had the potential lead run at second base.  Joyce managed to survive again, getting Koppenhofer on a grounder to short for the final out. 

Roncalli’s half of the sixth opened with Alex Stroud getting nicked by a pitch.  Hayden Harper followed with a bunt which Joyce fielded and threw over the head of first baseman Joe Genier.  Stroud took third on the error and Harper stole second.  When Keeney was hit by a pitch to fill the bases, Coach Banwart summoned sophomore right-hander Bayley Arnold from the Perry Meridian bullpen. 

That brought up Schnell, whose sacrifice fly to center brought in Stroud with the tying run.  One out later, Koppenhofer ripped a drive that hugged the line in left for a bases-clearing two-base hit and a 5-3 Roncalli lead. 

“He threw me a fastball inside,” said Koppenhofer.  “It was up and in, and that's my kind of pitch.  I'd been pulling it all day and I got ahold of one, just like my first at-bat.  I kind of tailed it a little bit, and it hooked around the line and stayed just fair.  It was pretty exhilarating.” 

Perry Meridian refused to go quietly in the top of the seventh.  After Alex Houston opened the frame with a hit, Hayden Harper moved from second base to the mound in relief of Lundy.  Harper retired the first batter he faced on a fly ball to left, but Arnold followed with a single to right that put the potential tying run on first.  Harper got the next man to pop up, and when he fanned Alex Morgan on a full count, the Rebels wrapped up the County title. 

Lundy scattered four hits, hit a batter and walked another while striking out eight.  Two of the three runs charged to him were unearned.  Pitching at Victory Field “felt different at first,” he said, “but then once we got into it, I didn't think about the surroundings at all.  It was just another game. I was just excited through the whole thing,”  

“Lundy did a great job – pitched a really good game,” said Coach Kroll. “Harper did a really good job to come in and close it out.  We felt really good about bringing Hayden into the game.  He's done a real good job of closing out games for us.” 

“He's done good all year,” added Lundy.  “I like him backing me up.” 

Diamond Dust:  Maybe Roncalli’s fans weren’t happy with the two intentional walks to super slugger Nick Schnell, but Coach Kroll wasn’t fazed.  “Truthfully, we believe in our hitters,” he said.  “The guys that are hitting after Schnell have had great seasons.  Mark Cobb behind him has hit over .450 most of the year.  Koppenhofer in the three-hole

has just got nothing but big hits all year.  So even though they put (Schnell) on, we still feel really good about who's hitting behind him.” 

Schnell, the Louisville commit who has been on a rampage of late, caught fire after moving to the top of Roncalli’s batting order.  “About three weeks ago or so, we put him in the leadoff spot and he's really exploded,” said Coach Kroll.  “I'm not gonna say that's why.  We were just looking for something to jump-start our offense.  So we switched it up a little bit and we've never gone back, because he's been just red hot.  We've put up a lot of runs with him in the leadoff spot, so we've stuck with it.” 

The game lasted an hour and 49 minutes.  

CITY – HERITAGE CHRISTIAN 6, CATHEDRAL 2 

The Book of Samuel tells how a youthful shepherd bested a powerful Philistine warrior in one of the Old Testament’s greatest upsets.  

While Monday night’s City matchup between the Class 4A No. 11 Fighting Irish (16-8-1) and the 2A No. 4 Eagles (20-3) may not have reached biblical proportions, Stephen DeWitt of Heritage Christian played the role of David to a tee. 

Going up against a Cathedral juggernaut in search of its 23rd City title – and 16th since 1999 – the Eagles’ lanky 6-foot-3 senior left-hander held the Irish to five hits and two runs (one earned) while doling out three walks and striking out 10.     

“This is probably the best game I’ve ever pitched and all the glory to God for that,”    

said DeWitt.  “Honestly, I couldn’t have done it without my teammates.  They were there for me the whole time, encouraging me.  My catcher (senior Quinn Cobb) was calling a great game.  I was on it from the very get-go, and it was a great feeling.”  

Joel Mounts, Heritage Christian’s leadoff hitter, backed DeWitt’s performance with a double and a pair of walks in four trips to the plate.  The senior second baseman stole two bases and scored three of the Eagles’ runs.  

“We talked about the fact that you almost have to play perfect when you play a team as good as Cathedral,” said Heritage Christian coach Dan Ambrose.  “And we didn’t play perfect, but we played pretty close.  Timely hitting overcame a couple of mistakes, which is always nice to see. You don’t like to see mistakes, but you like to see the guys overcome ‘em, and not hang their heads – and fantastic pitching!”  

Heritage Christian put up four runs on just one hit in the top of the first.  Peyton Schofield, Cathedral's junior lefty, gave up a double to Mounts, who advanced to third on Jaden Ambrose's bunt sacrifice.  Walks to Cobb and Joe Butz, sandwiched around a strikeout, filled the bases.  Dillon Turner drew a full-count walk for the Eagles' first run, and three more came home on a botched fly ball to deep center field. 

Cathedral answered with a run in the bottom of the frame.  Leadoff man Mack Murphy stroked a single and Jared Poland forced him at second. Poland went to second on a wild pitch and took third on a passed ball.  He came home on a balk by DeWitt. 

In the top of the second, Derek Haslett came in to pitch for Cathedral.  Thomas Johnson greeted the junior right-hander with a single and Mounts hit into a force play.  After Mounts swiped second, Ambrose plated him with a base hit to right that stretched Heritage Christian’s lead to 5-1. 

The Eagles made it 6-1 in the fourth on a walk to Mounts, followed by a stolen base and Cobb's two-out RBI single. 

Cathedral responded with a tally in the bottom of the frame.  With one out, Schofield was hit by a pitch.  DeWitt fanned the next batter, and appeared to be out of the inning when Haslett lifted a fly ball to right.  But the ball popped out of Johnson's glove for an error, and Schofield scampered home from first with Cathedral’s second run. 

In the bottom of the seventh, DeWitt fanned the first two Irish batters.  By now he’d thrown 120 pitches – 70 for strikes – and Coach Ambrose replaced him with Nick Woodworth.  The senior left-hander fanned the next Cathedral hitter to end the game in two hours and 15 minutes. 

“I was at my pitch limit of 120,” said DeWitt.  “I wanted one more batter, but that’s what rules are, and I had to follow them.”  

“He’s our No. 1,” Coach Ambrose said of DeWitt.  “I think he’s now 7-0, and all year he’s faced good lineups, but not great lineups.  So we were wondering what he’d do against a great lineup – and we just found out.”  

DeWitt had never before pitched at Victory Field, the home if the International League’s Indianapolis Indians.  “It’s a first-time experience for me,” he said.  “I hadn’t pitched (here) before, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.” 

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