As the bottom of the sixth inning began, Collin Lollar stepped back on the mound for Columbus North with an 11-1 lead against Terre Haute North.
A scoreless inning would clinch the Conference Indiana championship, and with the cushion he was working with, there wouldn’t have been a nervous bone in any Bull Dog body.
But Lollar hadn’t surrendered a hit yet.
The Patriots scored a run in the second on two errors and a groundout-RBI. Lollar had been far from perfect, walking four in the first five innings, but Terre Haute North had been unable to find that first hit.
Lollar struck out the first two batters of the sixth. He needed just one more out to clinch the six-inning no-hitter.
“Just throw strikes and let them hit it,” Lollar said of his approach in the final inning. “Let my defense make a play.”
But it would not be the fairy-tale ending many were hoping for. Patriots second baseman Aric Wisbey found the gap in right-center for a double.
“He hit it where they weren’t,” Lollar said.
After walking the next hitter, Lollar rebounded to strike out the final batter of the game, securing an 11-1 victory and the conference championship for Columbus North (22-3).
“We didn’t get conference last year, and that was a big disappointment,” Lollar said. “We really wanted to get it this year and prove that we were the best in the conference. I think we did that.”
“This is a big win for us,” Columbus North coach Ben McDaniel said. “(A conference championship) is something we couldn’t accomplish last year. Even though it was a different format this year, it was still one of our goals. We had two big games to get here, and I think we did a great job.”
The Bull Dog bats were as hot as the Patriot bats were cold in the game. Every Columbus North player scored at least one run, and all but two had at least one hit.
“We had really good plate approaches,” Lollar said. “We went up looking for fastballs. One thing we’ve worked on at practice is searching for fastballs and not going for the offspeed. We hunted good fastballs and put good swings on them.”
The Bull Dogs broke the game open in the second. With two out and the bases loaded, leadoff man Canaan Baum drove in Cooper Trinkle with a single. Brice McDaniel then tripled home three runs and later came in himself on a wild pitch.
“We’ve got guys that know how to hit the ball, know how to get on base and are smart on the basepaths,” coach McDaniel said. “We’re very good a situational hitting. We had a couple big innings where we were able to string some hits together and move guys around the bases.
“We’ve been hitting the ball pretty well the last couple days. Two triples, a double and a home run, especially when you’ve got guys on base — it’s good.”
Devin Mann homered in the fourth. Cody Burton went 3 for 4, finishing just a home run shy of the cycle, and scored three times.
With the conference championship now in the bag, Columbus North can turn its attention to finishing out the regular season and moving into the sectional.
“I don’t think it’ll be hard to stay focused,” Lollar said. “We’ve got a lot of seniors on this team that we desperately want to win state for.”