The Columbus North baseball team broke a 19-year sectional title drought by winning the East Central Sectional on Monday night.
Now, the Bull Dogs are intent on breaking a longer regional dry spell. North hasn’t won a baseball regional in 24 years, a drought it will try to end today at Evansville’s Bosse Field.
“We wanted them to enjoy the sectional win,” first-year North coach Ben McDaniel said. “We wanted them to enjoy Tuesday and let everything soak in. They came ready to work (Wednesday). They’re definitely dialed in; they’re focused; they’ve had a little taste of success; and they want to see what they can do.”
The Bull Dogs (23-5-1), ranked No. 6 in Class 4A, are the only ranked team in the field. They’ll play Castle (23-9) at around 1 p.m. CST (2 p.m. EST) today.
Jeffersonville (22-7) and Whiteland (11-17) will meet in the first semifinal at 11 a.m. CST (Noon EST). The championship game will be at 7 p.m. CST (8 p.m. EST).
“Like our sectional, I think our regional is fairly tough,” McDaniel said. “You have three teams with a lot of wins under their belt this year. It seems all three of those teams have good pitching and are fairly offensive, and Whiteland’s record doesn’t indicate how good they are. They beat a very good Franklin Central team to get to where they’re at. Franklin Central won our conference, and that’s a very good conference.”
The Castle team that North will face has won 15 of its past 16 games following a 7-8 start. The Knights have won eight in a row, capped by a 2-0 sectional final win against Evansville North in which Addison Smith threw a no-hitter.
“I know they have three very good pitchers,” McDaniel said. “Offensively, they beat some very good baseball teams. They put it on Terre Haute North twice, and they won their sectional. Terre Haute North is a very offensive team, and from what I’ve heard, (Castle is) every bit as offensive at Terre Haute North.”
The Bull Dogs can hit the ball, as well. Junior shortstop Devin Mann leads the way with a .439 average, 14 doubles, five triples and 39 runs scored and also has two home runs and 23 RBIs. Sophomore center fielder Canaan Baum is batting .394 with team highs of three homers and 42 RBIs.
“I feel like we’re all hitting the ball right now,” Mann said. “We’re definitely at 100 percent right now and ready to get back on the field.”
On the mound, sophomore Collin Lollar is 6-1 with a 3.09 ERA, junior Cody Burton is 2-3 with a 4.38 ERA and senior Christian Glass is 3-1 with a 3.35 ERA. Burton threw a two-hit shutout in a 2-0 sectional semifinal win over Bloomington North.
McDaniel gave Columbus North, which beat Bloomington South 5-3 in Monday’s sectional final, the day off on Tuesday. The Bull Dogs went through a 2 1/2-hour hitting session on Wednesday and had another solid practice session on Thursday. They left for Evansville on Friday and were going to practice at a high school in The River City.
“Practices have been more upbeat,” Mann said. “Practices have been more high energy. We’re definitely looking forward to it and not looking past it.”