Bull Dogs bounce Braves for Conference Indiana title

Columbus North’s Zach McLean, left, congratulates fellow senior Connor Hensley after the pair led the Bull Dogs to a win against Terre Haute South on Saturday that gave them the Conference Indiana title.

Ted Schultz | The Republic

A loss at Southport to begin the week on Monday dampened Columbus North’s chances to win the Conference Indiana baseball title.

But the Class 4A No. 6 Bull Dogs bounced back in a big way. They pulled out a one-run win against Bloomington South on Wednesday, then beat Terre Haute South 7-2 on Saturday to win the outright championship.

“It means a lot to the guys,” North coach Mike Bodart said. “That was one of the goals for the year, to win conference. We put ourselves in a difficult situation after the Southport game, but fortunately, we were able to battle against Bloomington South with a good victory, and then this one was the icing on the cake.”

The Bull Dogs (16-4, 4-1) pounded out 12 hits against Terre Haute South and got solid pitching from seniors Connor Hensley and Ryan Rayburn, who combined on a seven-hitter.

“Connor didn’t have his best stuff, but he still kept fighting through it and finished strong and gave us a chance to get the ball to Rayburn to finish the game out,” Bodart said. “And 12 hits in a game is never a bad thing, so we’ll take that every game.”

Hensley allowed two runs on six hits over six innings. He struck out six and walked one.

“It was all right,” Hensley said. “I battled through some adversity and just tried to throw strikes.”

Zach McLean did big damage at the plate. His two-run double in the bottom of the first put North on the board, and another two-run double in the third broke a 2-2 tie and gave the Bull Dogs the lead for good.

“I felt confident,” McLean said. “Coach was being really inspirational today, and I felt really good about it. He just told me to have some fun. That’s something I’ve been working on the entire season with being a senior.”

Dillon James added an RBI-single, and Rylan Wormer squeezed in James with another run to make it 6-2 in the third. North’s final run came in the sixth on an RBI-single by Jayce Emmitt.

McLean finished 2 for 2 with four RBIs, and Brock Kintner went 2 for 2. Hensley and Sam Perry each went 2 for 3, and Emmitt was 2 for 4.

The Conference title is the first for the Bull Dogs since 2022.

“It means a lot to our team,” McLean said. “We have a lot of younger guys that really wanted to do it, and I really wanted to do it, so it’s good to see our team do that.”

“It was nice,” Hensley said. “We haven’t won it since our sophomore year, so it felt pretty good to win that. That was one of our goals for the year, and we played very well.”

The two-game winning streak follows a stretch in which the Bull Dogs had lost three of four following a 13-1 start.

“We’re starting to figure things out again after that rough patch,” Hensley said. “But we’re still very confident in what we do, and we’re just trying to get the little things back and keep inching away day by day.”