BLOOMINGTON — With the season on the line, Columbus North baseball coach Ben McDaniel went with his freshman pitcher to close the game in the seventh inning of Friday night’s Bloomington North sectional semifinal against Columbus East.
The Bull Dogs were clinging to a one-run lead going into the bottom of the seventh, and freshman Casper Clark came in to retire the side in order to help North hold on for a 7-6 win and advance to Monday’s sectional championship.
“Casper is mature beyond his years,” McDaniel said. “He never gets too high, never gets too low. He has a great mentality for pitching … he was begging for the ball. We gave it to him, and he proved us right.”
The Bull Dogs (13-13) opened the game with five runs in the first, sparked by an RBI from Cooper Trinkle, followed by another one from Nolan Wetherald. Korry Drum capped the scoring in the inning with a two-run single to put the Bull Dogs up 5-0.
After that, Olympians pitcher Jon Crawford held North to four consecutive scoreless innings as East (18-8) crawled its way back into the game.
A two-run double by Julian Greenwell in the second inning gave East life. Jonah Wichman kept the momentum going with an RBI-single before Charlie Burton scored on a groundout by Josh Major.
“Kudos to our guys. I’m so proud of them,” East coach Jon Gratz said. ”They didn’t get down. They didn’t hang their heads. They just kept battling, kept battling and didn’t give up, just like they’ve done all year long.”
An Eric McMullen RBI in the fourth for East tied the score at 5-5. Trinkle’s two-run single in the top of the sixth gave North the lead back, and the Olympians cut it to one in the bottom of the inning.
Maddox pitched the four innings for North while Jacob Meyer pitched the fifth and sixth to earn the win. Clark, who picked up the save, also will be pitching Monday, McDaniel said.
“We have so much faith in him that he’s scheduled to go in the championship game,” McDaniel said. “That was before any of this ever happened. He was scheduled to go in the championship game, and he still will.”
Nolan Wetherald went 2 for 3 for the Bull Dogs while Trinkle and Maddox both went 2 for 4. Greenwell went 2 for 2 for East.
Gratz said he is proud of the season the Olympians had and credits his seniors for leading the way.
“I know it’s hard for our guys to think about, but they had a heck of a season,” Gratz said. “Our seniors battled their tails off all year, led by example all offseason. It’s a tough way for them to go out.”