BLOOMINGTON — More often than not, baseball games are decided by the timing of hits rather than the quantity of them.
Columbus East and Bloomington South each had six hits during Monday afternoon’s sectional title game at Bloomington North.
The Panthers happened to cluster most of theirs together, and that helped power them to a 5-1 victory.
The Olympians end their season at 18-8-1. Bloomington South advances to play in Saturday’s Evansville Reitz Regional.
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East starter Drew Hasson breezed through three hitless innings before running into trouble in the fourth. The Panthers led off the inning with four consecutive singles, including RBI hits by Nick Wright and Tyler Van Pelt, to take a 2-0 lead. After a walk, Kyle Root lined a base hit up the middle to score two more.
Hasson, a sophomore, yielded just one other hit on the afternoon, but that fourth inning was the decisive blow.
“That’s what baseball is, you know?” senior right fielder Kyle Weiss said. “Sometimes you have innings like that, and it’s hard to come back from them.”
The Olympians certainly tried. They got one run back in the fifth, when Harry Crider led off with a double and came around on infield hits from Weiss and Josh Major, but Wright hit a two-out solo homer to left in the bottom of the inning to push the Panthers’ lead back to four.
Meanwhile, Wright managed to bend but not break on the mound. After stranding a pair in the fifth inning, East loaded the bases in the sixth but came away with nothing.
The Olympians also put a pair of runners on with two out in the seventh but were unable to push anyone across the plate.
“We just needed some key hits in some of those situations,” East coach Jonathan Gratz lamented.
Freshman Julian Greenwell came on in relief of Hasson in the sixth and struck out all three hitters he faced.
Those two pitchers are part of a large contingent of returning players that should leave East in a good position to chase a sectional crown again next season.
The five departing seniors — Nick Andrie, Joey Back, Weiss, Noah Wichman and Takahiro Yamada — will be sorely missed, however.
“I think we seniors set the bar from a leadership standpoint for next year,” said Weiss, who had two hits in his final game. “Hopefully, they come back with the same leadership, the same mindset.”
“They did so much for this program,” Gratz added. “We’re really going to miss them.”