It was only moments after Columbus North’s shot at a baseball regional championship had ended in extra innings against Castle on Saturday afternoon that the Bull Dogs were talking about 2015.
Kids tend to do that while those of us who have lived a little want to savor each and every day. I guarantee you, for them, the time can’t pass fast enough.
It’s understandable because North has a wealth of talent returning from its first sectional championship team since 1995.
Castle, by the way, beat Whiteland 2-1 in the Evansville Reitz Regional championship on Saturday night after slugging it out with the Bull Dogs for nine innings earlier in the day. I’m sure Ben McDaniel’s players are experiencing a little “That should be us,” regret.
It all makes those in blue point toward the 2015 season.
But before the Bull Dogs do too much fast-forwarding, they need to consider that they’ve got a lot of work to do. They might not even be the best team in their city.
Yikes. That’s throwing some fuel into the East-North fire.
Nonetheless, it is true.
For a city that hadn’t seen, until last week, a high school baseball sectional title since East’s crown in 1999, baseball is suddenly the filet mignon on the sports schedule in Columbus.
These should be two teams that can rival any team in the state in 2015.
Any team in the state? Yes.
It should be noted that neither North or East has one important ingredient. Nolan Ryan. Well, at least a kid with an arm like Nolan Ryan.
That means neither team can get past on cruise control. They both will need to bring it every day, or it will be an early exit like the Olympians experienced this season.
East, which won the Hoosier Hills Conference Tournament championship, has to be suffering now that it didn’t get a third shot at North. The two teams split 1-1 during the regular season.
Could the sectional championship be settled the other way around next season, with East winning the title? Sure.
For local fans, that’s a positive. The city of Columbus seems to have caught up with Bloomington in high school baseball. It’s about time.
I can’t imagine that it will be different next season. Look at our local lineups.
North can start Cody Burton and Collin Lollar on the mound while East can go with William Anderson and Cam Curry. They all are right-handed, they all can throw in the high 80s and all four can snap off a breaking pitch with the best of them. They aren’t Nolan Ryan, but they are real good high school pitchers. Many teams might have one of their level pitcher, but not two.
Offensively, the two teams are stacked. For North, Devin Mann (21 extra base hits) and Canaan Baum (42 RBI) are what kids today would call “stupid” good. It’s scary. Then throw in the fact that returning Bull Dogs catcher Evan Finke hit .415.
East has plenty of power back to put a charge into its lineup, including Anderson (27 RBI, 3 HRs) and Curry (29 runs scored, 4 HRs).
Both teams are pretty sharp defensively. Finke and East’s Brock Greiwe are rock-solid defensively behind the plate, and that’s huge in high school.
Of course, there are things to overcome. North had a bunch of injuries this season, so hopefully there are no long-term effects to those woes.
East will have to replace front-line pitcher and shortstop Peyton Gray and catcher/center fielder Christian Wichman. Plus, Greiwe will have to work a ton at the plate in the offseason after hitting .152 this season. With his power, if Greiwe can hit .250, East is going to score a lot of runs.
Neither team has much speed and it is a concern that East lost its fastest player in Wichman.
Overall, though, Columbus will be blessed with the state’s best high school baseball action. So bring on 2015.
Jay Heater is The Republic sports editor. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 379-5632.