Eyes On The Irish: Olympians face Cathedral with chance to win trip to state final

When Columbus East played Cathedral on April 5 at Grand Park in Westfield, the Olympians jumped out to a 5-1 lead after three innings.

The Irish came storming back with 10 runs in the fifth and posted an 11-5 victory.

This afternoon, East (15-16-1) and Cathedral (17-10-2) will meet again, this time with bigger stakes on the line. They’ll play at around 3:30 p.m. in the Mooresville Semistate for a berth in next weekend’s Class 4A state final.

“We were hitting and running and scoring some runs, and then we had a hit-by-pitch, walk, an error and then they had a little bloop-double and then the wheels fell off after that,” East coach Jon Gratz said. “They just got a bunch of hits in a row and some walks. Losing to a team early, it gives a little more fuel to the fire. But we played very early in the season, and I think we’re both very different teams now than we were then.”

Junior Will Boyer, the Olympians’ No. 2 hurler, started that game and allowed only one run through the first four innings before running into the trouble in the fifth. Today, Gratz will send senior ace Ethan Ianni to the mound against the Irish.

“I’m going to try to build off the last few performances that I’ve had and just keep up the intensity and not let up,” Ianni said. “They’re a pretty good team, and Will did a really good job against them through those first 4 1/3 innings. He pitched a really good game against them, so we’ll just build up some scouting and be ready to go.”

Ianni is 6-3 with a 2.21 ERA. He is coming off a complete-game four-hitter in a 4-1, eight-inning upset win against 4A No. 2 Mooresville in the regional semifinals.

“He’s a heck of a competitor,” Gratz said. “He’s really came on strong at the end of the year. Early in the year, he started a off a little slow. He’s always been a kid, as the weather warms up, he starts throwing a harder. I think he’s throwing as well as anybody in the state right now.”

Senior center fielder Logan Christophel leads East with a .448 batting average, while sophomore designated hitter Blake Borkhardt is batting .364 with team-highs of six home runs and 26 RBIs. Other top hitters are senior shortstop Harry Major (.339, 13 RBIs), senior second baseman Will Rieckers (.311, 11 RBIs), senior first baseman Josh Luedeke (.280, 24 RBIs) and senior catcher Alex McComb (.238, 15 RBIs).

“We’re hitting well,” Gratz said. “Hopefully, we keep improving. We’re trying to get better every day we’re out here (at practice), trying to simulate what we’re going to see in the game. I’ve been pleased with offensively, how we’ve played.”

Cathedral’s top two pitchers are seniors Ben Gomez (4-1, 3.20 ERA) and Dylan Haslett (3-3, 3.58 ERA). Gomez pitched the final inning against East when the teams met early in the season.

The Irish are led at the plate by sophomore outfielder Carson Johnson (.394, 20 RBIs), junior infielder Kyuss Garrett (.378, two HR, 15 RBIs) and sophomore catcher-infielder J.T. Stiner (.357, two HR, 23 RBIs).

Major was a part-time starter for the Olympians when they beat Avon in the 2019 semistate at Mooresville before falling to Hamilton Southeastern in the 4A state championship game.

“I feel like it matters a little bit more now because I’m a senior, and you never know when it could be your last game in the tournament,” Major said. “I think my freshman year, I didn’t know how much it meant to the seniors then. So just coming out and wanting to win every game because you don’t know when it could be your last.”

Ianni, Rieckers and senior left fielder Ty Uphaus also dressed for those tournament games as freshmen.

“I think it’s very important to have guys in that situation,” Gratz said. “Even if they weren’t playing, they would have experienced it. We always try to bring up as many guys as we can so they can experience that and be a part of that so that down the road, it’s not new to them.”

East already has avenged a pair of its regular-season losses with one-run wins against Bloomington North and Bloomington South in the Bloomington South Sectional. Following the extra-inning upset of Mooresville in the Jasper Regional semifinals, the Olympians rallied for a 3-2 win against New Albany in the regional final.

“I think we’re playing great,” Major said. “Everybody’s stepping up, and everybody’s doing their job throughout the lineup. We just have to keep building off of this and hopefully win a state championship.”