ST. LEON — Columbus North baseball coach Ben McDaniel caught more than a few people by surprise last week when he named Cody Burton as his starting pitcher for the Bull Dogs’ sectional opener Friday at East Central High School.
Burton was among them.
However, the junior righty made his coach look like a genius. He threw a two-hit shutout and struck out 10 to lead North, the No. 6-ranked Class 4A team, to a 2-0 win over Bloomington North in the sectional semifinals.
“Cody has been anywhere in our top three (pitchers),” McDaniel said. “That’s one of the first things I talked to our guys about afterward — there were a lot of guys questioning my decision to throw Cody, as opposed to throwing Collin (Lollar). We have a lot of faith in Cody, and everybody else can see why now.”
The Bull Dogs will play for the sectional title at 6 p.m. Monday against Bloomington South.
Burton walked only one batter Friday and faced just two over the minimum. His defense played errorless baseball behind him.
“He rises to the occasion,” McDaniel said. “Nerves don’t bother him. Nothing gets to him. He wants the ball in those type of situations, and we were happy to give it to him. We look at the match-up and see who we think gives us the best opportunity.”
“I had good control, and my fastball had speed on it tonight and my breaking pitches were all moving,” Burton said. “I could locate my fastball, and I could locate my off-speed. Evan (Finke) caught a great game, and our defense played well.”
Columbus North’s offense gave Burton all the run support he would need in the second inning. Will Dorenbusch led off with a single and went to third on a single by Cooper Trinkle, who took second on the throw to third. Dorenbusch came home when an attempted pick-off throw eluded the third baseman, and Trinkle scored on a two-out hit by Devin Mann.
“I thought we came out with good energy, and our whole team was up the whole game,” Mann said. “We prepared all week for it, and we had a good mentality going into the game, so I thought we were well-prepared.”
The Bull Dogs (22-5-1), who managed six hits — all in the first three innings — threatened to add to their lead in the fifth. Mann reached on an error and was sacrificed to third by Canaan Baum, who reached safely. But after Baum stole second, Bloomington North’s Dylan Stutzman came up with back-to-back strikeouts, and after an
intentional walk to Brice McDaniel, got Dorenbusch to ground into a fielder’s choice.
“I walked out of the coach’s box and turned to my other coaches and said ‘I hope that doesn’t hurt,’” Ben McDaniel said. “We were trying everything to get runs across. We tried a squeeze that just kicked off the grass and went foul. We were trying to get at least one more across and weren’t able to do it.”
The Cougars (16-9) had one last chance in the seventh when Blake Richardson led off with a single. But then Bryce Aldridge grounded out to second, and Richardson was called out for interfering with the throw to first. Burton then struck out Pete Allen to end it.
“Cody kept us in it, and we were able to keep them at zero, and that was enough,” Ben McDaniel said.