PLAINFIELD — They finished last in their conference, but a month later, came within one win of playing for the Class 4A state championship.
That rags-to-riches tale didn’t come without a lot of hard work and soul searching on the part of the Columbus North baseball players.
A team that was shut out in both of its Conference Indiana Tournament games and went 12-12-1 in the regular season went on a five-game tear to win sectional and regional titles before falling to undefeated and nationally-ranked Cathedral in Saturday’s semistate.
“I’m proud of our seniors,” North coach Ben McDaniel said. “If you look at where we ended the regular season, these guys put the team on their back and they’re responsible for this run. They’ve set an example for all of the returning players and all the incoming freshmen of what possible when you put 19 to 20 guys together all with one belief.”
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All of the Bull Dogs’ seven seniors played in Saturday’s game. Six were starters.
Four of those seniors are headed to play college baseball — second baseman Cooper Trinkle at Evansville, first baseman-pitcher Kevin Thompson at Olney Central (Illinois), third baseman Wade Rankin at Kankakee (Illinois) Community College and catcher Nolan Wetherald at Marietta (Ohio). Center fielder Korry Drum, right fielder Jeremias Dela Cruz and pitcher Logan Jones also graduate.
“I knew earlier in the year, we had the type of team that could make a tournament run with pitching and defense and some hitting,” Trinkle said. “But we really didn’t believe that until the last week of the season when we really came together, and from there on, we were just a different team. It was special, and I’m glad I was able to be a part of it.”
The Bull Dogs will have some talent returning, however, led by junior shortstop Tyler Finke, who was the team’s second-leading hitter behind Trinkle. North also will have a solid 1-2 punch on the mound with sophomore Parker Maddox and freshman Casper Clark returning, as well as depth with sophomore Jakob Meyer and junior Jake Petrusky.
Trinkle’s brother Grant started in left field as a freshman.
“There’s a ton of young talent in this program, and I know the incoming freshman class, there’s a ton of talent in that class, too,” Cooper Trinkle said. “I hope to see the next four years, these guys make it back here and even further.”
So does Clark. The pitcher-first baseman-designated hitter was thrilled with the run to the school’s first semistate appearance in 27 years.
“It was more than I could ask for,” Clark said. “It was super fun. I had a blast. I really figured a lot of things out about myself and other people, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. To do it again would be something special. It sucks to lose, but the run was amazing.”
Columbus North season results (17-13-1):
April 1;at Franklin;W 9-6
April 1;at Franklin;W 7-1
April 3;East Central;W 7-3
April 4;Seymour;W 1-0
April 7;vs. Mahomet-Seymour (Ill.);W 5-1*
April 7;at Louisville Trinity;W 5-3*
April 8;at South Oldham (Ky.);L 9-8*
April 8;vs. Plainfield South (Ill.);L 7-3*
April 11;Perry Meridian;L 5-3
April 13;Shelbyville;L 10-8
April 15;Terre Haute North;W 12-2
April 15;Terre Haute North;W 7-6
April 18;Franklin Central;W 12-1
April 21;Carmel;T 4-4
April 22;at Roncall;L 9-3
April 25;Southport;L 3-1
May 3;at Columbus East;L 2-0
May 10;at Bloomington South;W 7-6
May 13;vs. Bloomington North;L 6-0**
May 13;at Franklin Central;L 2-0**
May 15;at Fishers;L 9-1
May 16;Greenwood;W 9-4
May 19;Lawrence Central;L 2-0
May 20;North Central;W 3-2
May 20;North Central;L 7-3
May 25;vs. East Central;W 4-3***
May 26;vs. Columbus East;W 7-6***
May 29;vs. Bloomington South;W 11-1***
June 3;vs. Martinsville;W 3-0****
June 3;vs. Evansville Central;W 7-1****
June 10;vs. Cathedral;L 6-0*****
*-Super Prep Tournament
**-Conference Indiana Tournament
***-Bloomington North Sectional