East, others hope to challenge North in Shelbyville Sectional; Hauser among contenders at South Ripley

Columbus North’s Connor Hensley fires a pitch to the plate against Columbus East May 3 at Southside Elementary School.

Tommy Walker | For The Republic

Columbus North has been the only ranked baseball team in the Shelbyville Sectional all season, but Bull Dogs coach Mike Bodart isn’t buying into the favorite tag.

“I don’t put a lot of stock in that,” Bodart said. “You look at Franklin, and they’re scrappy, and East Central beat us. Whiteland has a good pitcher and a good couple of players, and (Columbus) East has gotten hot at the right time. I think it’s a wide-open sectional, and we have to go in and execute.”

Class 4A No. 9 North (17-7) will open sectional play against Franklin (13-10) at 6 p.m. Wednesday. The winner will meet the winner of Wednesday’s second game between Whiteland (14-10) and East Central (18-8) at 6 p.m. Friday, with the Olympians (9-16) facing Shelbyville (15-8) in the second game that night. The final is scheduled for noon May 27.

The Bull Dogs hit a little turbulence over the weekend to close the regular season. They fell at 4A No. 1 Center Grove on Friday, then lost to Lawrence North and Cathedral in Saturday’s Carmel Greyhound Invitational.

“We knew we had three tough opponents this weekend,” Bodart said. “We’re not worried about anything. We’re just resetting going forward.”

North has been led both at the plate and on the mound by senior Connor Hensley. Hensley is 4-1 with an 0.81 ERA and is batting .480 with 11 RBIs.

Seniors Ryan Rayburn (5-1, 1.62 ERA) and Blake Osbourne (2-2, 3.10 ERA) have given Hensley plenty of support on the mound. Other top hitters for the Bull Dogs include sophomore left fielder Brock Kintner (.405, 13 RBIs), sophomore catcher Sam Perry (.281), junior right fielder Jayce Emmitt (.279), senior first baseman Zach McLean (.271, 18 RBIs) and center fielder Osbourne (.254).

“We looked at the regular season, and we didn’t put a number on it, but if you would have said 17-7, we would have been happy with that,” Bodart said. “We won some games that maybe we shouldn’t have won, but we executed and did some things right.”

Columbus East catcher Logan Warren throws to first base after fielding a bunt as East’s A.J. Tindell looks on against Jennings County April 25 at Columbus East High School.

Tommy Walker | For The Republic

Columbus East has gone 6-5 following a 3-11 start to the season. The Olympians beat Bloomington North and Roncalli heading into Monday’s regular-season finale at Southport.

“We started off pretty slow,” East coach Jon Gratz said. “We’ve started to kind of put it together. Offensively, we’re starting to click a little bit, defensively, we’re playing pretty solid and we’re getting some pretty good pitching right now.”

Sophomore Stone Myers (1-1, 1.84 ERA) likely will start on the mound against Shelbyville. Junior AJ Tindell is 2-1 with a 2.55 ERA.

“Watching (Myers) in our preseason, we knew he was going to be good for us,” Gratz said. “He had a little arm issue, and that’s why we didn’t pitch him earlier. But he’s come on strong and done really well for us.”

Senior first baseman Blake Borkhardt (.379, two home runs, 18 RBIs, has been the Olympians’ top hitter. Other top hitters are junior shortstop Jackson Watkins (.342), junior center fielder Marcus Wilkinson (.296), junior catcher Logan Warren (.286), Tindell (.276), sophomore left fielder Bige Asher (.267, 12 RBIs) and senior right fielder Evan Balzer (.254, 11 RBIs).

“(Shelbyville has) two really good arms that can cause trouble for any offense,” Gratz said. “They’re a really solid team.”

Hauser’s Simeon Wasil fires a pitch to the plate Thursday against South Decatur May 9 at Hauser High School.

Tommy Walker | For The Republic

Meanwhile, Hauser will be playing in the Class 2A South Ripley Sectional. The Jets are 16-9 with home games against Indianapolis Lutheran on Monday and Eastern Hancock on Tuesday to close the regular season.

“I think as a team, we’re playing well,” Hauser coach Nate Long said. “We’re seeing the ball well at the plate, and our pitchers are commanding the (strike) zone with their pitches, so that’s a good thing going in to the sectional.”

The Jets will open sectional play against South Ripley (10-10) at around 7:45 p.m. Wednesday. Hauser beat the Raiders 17-1 early in the season.

“We didn’t see their No. 1 (pitcher), so all of that changes,” Long said.

If the Jets win Wednesday, they would face the winner between Brown County (1-17) and Milan (7-10) in the semifinals at 10 a.m. May 27. The final is at 6 p.m. May 27.

“Brownstown is the reigning champ, so as far as I’m concerned, they’re the team to beat,” Long said. “Austin always plays really well, and Southwestern (Hanover), when they have their ace on the mound, they’re tough to beat. Milan is a good team, and South Ripley is no slouch.”

Junior Simeon Wasil (6-0, 1.56 ERA) and senior Sam Louden (3-0, 0.00 ERA) have been Hauser’s top pitchers. The Jets have a deep staff with sophomore Stryker Gill (2-3, 1.89 ERA) and junior Holden Pittman (4-5, 2.29 ERA).

Sophomore right fielder Kam Blair (.480, 33 RBIs) and sophomore catcher Stryker Gill (.476, two HR, 19 RBIs), center fielder Wasil (.439, two HR, 32 RBIs) and third baseman Pittman (.433, 29 RBIs) lead Hauser at the plate.