Noblesville, Hamilton SE Win; Rain Postpones Title Game

By Pete Cava

PBR Indiana Correspondent

Noblesville and Hamilton Southeastern won their semifinal games Monday, and were primed for a showdown for the 4A Sectional #8 crown at Noblesville’s Dunker Field.  

Then the heavens opened up, and it rained.  And rained.  And rained some more.  About an hour before the 7:30 p.m. title game was to start, tourney officials made the announcement:  the Millers and Royals would have to wait 24 hours to decide the championship. 

The game was rescheduled for Tuesday at 7:30.   

Monday’s semis were played under overcast skies.  At times, a capricious wind blowing toward the outfield turned high fly balls into an adventure.  

NOBLESVILLE 6, FISHERS 1:  In Monday's first semifinal, Vincent Essig's bases-loaded single broke a 1-1 tie and the Millers (23-8) went on to defeat the Tigers for a berth in Monday night's title game.

Noblesville right-hander Garrett Christman pitched a complete game, striking out six while giving up six hits and a walk.  He also hit three batters. 

Fishers (22-10) took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first.  Connor Christiansen hit a one-out double and moved to third on a single by Griffin Hulecki.  Christman drilled Fishers cleanup hitter Taylor Canter to load the bases, and Christiansen crossed the plate on Brandon Yoho’s sacrifice fly to center.

Nathaniel Rhodes started for Fishers and cruised through the first three innings, scattering a pair of singles and a walk. 

Noblesville scored its first run in the fourth with help from two errors by the Tigers.  With one away, Christman hit a grounder to Fishers first baseman Mike Chakiry, who couldn't come up with it.  Essig popped to short for the second out, and when Zach St. Pierre flied to left, it looked like the inning was over.  But the ball skipped off Joe Rura's glove for a two-base error and Matt Swearingen, pinch-running for Christman, raced home to knot the score.

After getting the first two outs in the top of the fifth, Rhodes had trouble finding the plate.  The right-hander issued consecutive bases on balls to Andrew Wilson, Brian McLean and Christman.  Essig then rocked a 2-2 delivery into left field for a pair of runs.  “I knew that I needed to put the ball in play, and hit it hard somewhere,” said Essig. 

Swearingen – running for Christman again – and Essig advanced on a wild pitch and scored on St. Pierre's base hit to center. 

Christman accounted for Noblesville's final run in the top of the seventh with a sac fly. 

The Millers' fifth-inning breakthrough allowed Christman to breathe easier.  “It took a lot of pressure off me on the mound, because I could pitch with a lead,” said the Butler recruit.  “I knew my teammates could make the plays, if I just threw strikes.  I was throwing a lot of fastballs, and my breaking ball worked really well.” 

The game lasted an hour and 59 minutes.

HAMILTON SOUTHEASTERN 4, WESTFIELD 3:   Lanky right-hander Brendan Burns mixed in a curve and a change-up with his fastball, doling out seven hits and striking out 12 Shamrock batters as the Royals won the afternoon semifinal.

Hamilton Southeastern scored a run in the top of the first.  Leadoff hitter Tre Gantt rocked Westfield starter Luke Dietz's 2-0 pitch into center field for a triple.  With Matt Gorski batting, Dietz balked and Gantt strolled home for a 1-0 HSE lead. 

Westfield (16-12) answered with a pair of runs in the bottom of the first.  Jake Dietz walked to open the frame and went all the way to third on a wild pitch.  Alec Nelson's two-bagger tied the score, and one out later, Cole McCrary singled home Nelson for a 2-1 Shamrocks’ advantage.

HSE (13-16) made it 2-all in the top of the second.  Carter Poiry drew a leadoff walk, took second on a wild pitch and went to third on Matt Nash's base hit to left.  Nash was caught stealing, and Gantt popped up for the second out.  Gorski followed with a grounder to the left side, but Westfield shortstop Jake Dietz bobbled the ball for an error and Poiry scampered home.

HSE benefitted from the swirling winds in the top of the fifth.  David Herrmann started things for the Royals with a walk.  Burns laid down a sacrifice bunt, but Rocks catcher Bailey Partlow pounced on the ball and fired to second to force Herrmann.

Luke Dietz fanned Jack Casey for the second out, and Alex Akers followed with a wind-blown pop fly just beyond shortstop that eluded Jake Dietz for a base hit.  With runners at the corners, Poiry looped a single to right that sent home Collin Miller, who pinch-ran for Burns.

Jacob Robinson replaced Luke Dietz on the mound in the sixth, when HSE struck again.  Gantt ignited the rally with a single and advanced on Gorski's bunt sacrifice.  Aaron McGee followed with his third hit of the game to give the Royals a 4-2 advantage.

Jake Dietz opened the seventh with a monster blast over the left field fence that narrowed Westfield's deficit to 4-3.  Burns, who's headed to Ball State this fall, struck out the next three batters to end the one hour, 58-minute contest.

“It kept me on my feet the whole time,” said Burns of the hard-fought game.  “That home run in the last inning was crushed.  But I didn't let it get to me, and I just kept battling.”

“I told people all year long, we're a better team that what we've showed,” said HSE coach Scott Henson.  “We knew it was going to be a battle, and we knew it was going to be close.  Going in (today), we had a lot of confidence in our starting pitching, and we did what we do.  We're playing pretty well right now.”