West Vigo runs past weary Knights

·4 min read

May 25—It could have been worse for Northview's Knights.

They could have lost Wednesday night's marathon game to Edgewood, a 15-12, eight-inning masterpiece (sarcasm alert) that took nearly five hours to complete (at 1:13 a.m.). They could have had final examinations scheduled Thursday morning, like the Edgewood players did.

Instead, however, they had to face fifth-ranked West Vigo on Thursday in a semifinal game of the Class 3A Owen Valley Sectional, with several of their pitchers having seen a lot of work approximately 17 hours earlier. The result, an 18-3 Viking victory, wasn't entirely unpredictable.

"We got home really late, and we had to throw a lot of pitchers [to beat Edgewood]," coach Craig Trout of the Knights said afterward. "And West Vigo is one of the best teams in the state."

"We wore out some pitchers this week," said coach Culley DeGroote of the Vikings, who have worked both pitchers who started against them in the sectional into early exits because of pitch-count rules.

Despite the disparity of the final score, both coaches were complimentary of the young pitchers the Knights used Thursday. "They're young, but they've got really good arms," DeGroote said of sophomore Brayden Kreiger and freshman Trey Eldridge.

"We could have made a couple more plays behind them too," Trout mentioned.

The Vikings had struggled to put away Owen Valley in a 6-0 win on Wednesday — "We've definitely got some areas we can improve on," DeGroote said after Thursday's game — but put together three big innings Thursday.

Once again it was the bottom third of the VIking batting order that did a lot of the damage, although Carter Murphy and Ben Kearns helped a little too.

Murphy was 5 for 5 with two doubles and accounted for eight runs in what he said he thought was his first five-hit game since his sophomore year. Kearns was 3 for 3 with a double, scoring three times and driving in three.

But Hunter Cottrell and Brian Chesshir, batting eighth and ninth, combined to go 5 for 8 with Cottrell driving in four runs, and seventh batter Jaydon Bradbury started his team's first two rallies with two of his four walks, accounting for five runs (four scored by courtesy runner Ryan Cobb).

"We're not relying on two or three guys doing damage," DeGroote said after the game. "Our seventh, eighth and ninth guys are problems for other pitchers."

The Vikings loaded the bases with none out in the top of the first, but Kreiger got out of it without a run scoring. The Knights had a chance to take the lead in the bottom of the inning, but Ben Kearns escaped a first-and-third, one-out situation. "Huge," DeGroote said. "[Ben] really worked out of jams ... he's a bulldog on the mound."

Bradbury's first walk led to a second-inning run when Cottrell bunted Cobb to second and he scored on an overthrow of Chesshir's infield hit. But it was still a 1-0 game going into the fourth when Kreiger — who had finished the early-morning game on the mound — may have tired. Another Bradbury walk, an infield hit by Cottrell and a walk to Chesshir loaded the bases with no outs, and this time the Vikings capitalized. One run scored on a walk by Kearns, another on a passed ball, two more on Murphy's first double and another on a sacrifice fly by Gabe Skelton. Now it was 6-0.

"The challenges were a little more than we had today," Trout said later.

West Vigo took a 12-0 lead in the top of the sixth, the big blow a two-out, three-run double by Cottrell, but then Kearns showed signs of fatigue. Four walks and hits by Devon Barnhart and Peyton Lear cut the lead to nine runs — which meant the Knights had to find more arms to pitch a final inning in which West Vigo scored six more runs.

Murphy was teased after the game because one of his five hits was a little flukey, a soft line drive off the handle of his bat that floated over first base for his second double.

"When you're on, you're on," Murphy replied. "Today was one of those days — yesterday was not."

Murphy hopes Wednesday's struggles turn into a good thing for he and his team.

"We handled [the close game for six innings] really well," he said, "and we made some extreme adjustments this morning at practice. We hope to continue those on Monday [in the noon championship game] and then have a dogpile on the pitcher's mound."

The Knights finished their season with an uncharacteristic won-loss record but will lose just three seniors — Barnhart, Hunter Johnson and Gavin Jones.

"We've got a lot of work to do with a young team," Trout said, "but we're really excited about [having the rest of the roster returning]."