EVANSVILLE — Columbus North baseball coach Ben McDaniel had a 90-minute talk with his team after finishing last in last month’s Conference Indiana Tournament.

McDaniel said some of his seniors had already mentally moved on to life after graduation to that point. Things have turned around for the Bull Dogs since then.

Saturday, North beat Martinsville 3-0 and Evansville Central 7-1 at Bosse Field to capture the Evansville Regional championship and move to semistate for the first time since 1990.

“He explained to us (seniors) that if we kept up the road we were going, in two weeks we weren’t going to be high school baseball players anymore,” senior co-captain Cooper Trinkle said of the 90 minute conversation. “We seniors kind of realized that and the seven of us have done a great job of maturing since that talk. We have really matured as a team.”

The Bull Dogs (17-12) will play Saturday at either Plainfield or Jasper against the winner of the Cathedral-Roncalli game, which was delayed until Monday.

The championship game was scoreless for the first four innings until Evansville Central scored on a RBI-double to take a 1-0 lead in the top of the fifth. North (17-12) came right back with two runs of their own. A fielder’s choice put Wade Rankin on base, and a Bears error allowed the Bull Dogs to score two runs.

Trinkle kept the momentum going by clubbing a two-run homer to put North up 4-0, and the runs continued to come. Two more RBIs by Korry Drum and Grant Trinkle gave the Bull Dogs a five-run cushion.

Although North had only one hit off Central pitcher Mason White, McDaniel and the Bull Dogs went into the fifth inning confident they could get on base against him.

“We had been hitting him all day,” McDaniel said. “The balls weren’t just falling. We said if they bring him back out, ‘Keep hitting him, and they’ll drop,’ and that’s what happened.”

Pitcher Parker Maddox did his part by only giving up one hit in the final two innings to prevent the Bears from catching up. Freshman Casper Clark scored North’s final run on an RBI-single in the sixth inning.

Grant Trinkle went 3 for 3, and Cooper Trinkle went 2 for 4 for North.

McDaniel went with senior pitcher Kevin Thomspon in the first game against Martinsville. Thompson has been pitching better every week, McDaniel said, and it showed in the one-hit shutout.

“We prepared all week, and all my job was to come out and keep throwing strikes,” Thompson said. “We all want to win, and that’s big for a pitcher to just know that if the ball is put into play, you have a solid defense behind you that will knock anything down.”

Rankin started the game with an RBI-double in the first inning, and Thompson scored on an RBI-single to give the Bull Dogs the early 2-0 lead. North kept a two-run lead for most of the game, despite Martinsville having the bases loaded with just one out in the third.

The Bull Dogs closed the inning with a double play, and Rankin pushed the lead to three on a RBI-single in the sixth. Thompson closed it with a perfect seventh.

North had 11 hits against the Artesians (12-17). Rankin went 3 for 5 with two RBIs. Both Thompson and Drum went 2 for 3.

“It’s just unreal the way these guys have come together these last three weeks,” McDaniel said. “These seniors have put this team on their shoulders, and the credit all goes to them.”

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Frank Bonner is a sports writer for The Republic. He can be reached at fbonner@therepublic.com or 812-379-5632.