When Columbus North knocked off Columbus East 6-0 back on May 2, the Bull Dogs’ Daniel Ayers and the Olympians’ Brian Wichman engaged in a scoreless pitching duel through four innings.
This morning, when the two teams meet again in the semifinals of the Bloomington North Sectional, there’s a chance neither of those hurlers will be on the mound. East coach Jonathan Gratz is leaning toward starting sophomore Peyton Gray, while North coach Brian Muckerheide wouldn’t commit to a starter and will likely send senior Hunter McIntosh or Ayers to the hill.
“We have to continue to play solid defensively,” Gratz said. “We have to hit better than the last time we played them.”
Ayers, a junior, threw a two-hitter and struck out 15 Olympians in the regular-season meeting. Wichman allowed four hits and struck out four in 5 1/3 innings before giving way to Gray.
Ayers is 6-0 with a 1.31 ERA and 104 strikeouts for the Class 4A No. 3 Bull Dogs (23-2). McIntosh is 4-0 with three saves, an 0.82 ERA and 50 strikeouts, and senior Parker Shelton is 7-0 with one save, a 2.08 ERA and 48 strikeouts.
Gray is 3-4 with two saves, a 3.02 ERA and 36 strikeouts for the Olympians (10-16). Wichman, a junior, is 1-5 with one save, a 4.05 ERA and 50 strikeouts; senior Kellen Otto is 3-3 with a 4.24 ERA and 27 strikeouts and junior Dakota Glenn is 3-2 with a 3.55 ERA and 16 strikeouts.
“We just have to come in and play our game,” Muckerheide said. “We have to continue staying focused and have a good plate approach, and we’ll be all right. We just need to come in focused and not overlook them. It’s always scary playing a team with a losing record at sectional time because records don’t mean anything at that point. I know Jon will have them ready.”
North’s top hitters are junior center fielder Dennis Brumfield (.429), freshman left fielder-shortstop Devin Mann (.420), McIntosh (.387), junior second baseman Coledon Hoeltke (.379), senior right fielder C.J. Dennis (.338) and senior catcher Will Bowman (.309). Senior third baseman Braden Pelley has four home runs and 20 RBIs, while McIntosh and Dennis each have 17 RBIs.
“They’re a good team,” Gratz said. “I think if we come out and play well, we have a chance to beat anybody. We just have to get ready to go, be relaxed and just play ball.”
Wichman, who plays center field when not pitching, leads East with a .325 average, while junior third baseman Cody Edwards is hitting .321 with 15 RBIs. Junior shortstop-second baseman-center fielder Ben Harpring is batting .300. Gray has the Olympians only home run of the season.
“It’s a team we cannot fall asleep on,” Muckerheide said. “I know that they’re going to be primed and ready. It’s probably their World Series if they beat us. We just have to go in and take care of business.”
The East-North game begins at 11 a.m. and will be followed by the semifinal between Bloomington North and Bloomington South. The championship game will be at 6 p.m.
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