4A Sectional 8: HSE Shades NC 2-1 In Title Game




By Pete Cava

PBR Indiana Correspondent

ZIONSVILLE – With the bases loaded and two out, reliever Steven Curry fanned Mac Lozer to preserve a dramatic 2-1 Hamilton Southeastern win over North Central and hand the Royals their first sectional title since 2004. 

“I had all the confidence in the world in Steven,” said HSE coach Scott Henson.  “He’s one of our best, he’s one of our senior leaders.  I knew he was gonna get the job done.  I never wavered.”  

Senior left-hander Nathan Upchurch started for HSE (20-11) and threw two-hit ball over five innings for the victory.  Curry, who opened the game as the Royals’ designated hitter, came on in the sixth and hurled two shutout frames for the save.  

Upchurch struck out four while giving up a pair of walks.  Curry notched three strikeouts, allowed two hits and issued two free passes.  

“I’m just happy we won a sectional,” said Upchurch.  “We had good defense, hit the ball well, and had a great game over all.  We hung on.  Coach Henson did a great job of calling pitches. I would throw the curve ball for a strike, and they’d expect it, then I’d throw the fastball.  We mixed pitches really well.”  

Henson said the win was a testament to Upchurch’s pitching ability.  “Tonight he didn’t have his best stuff,” said the coach. “He still battled and got guys out, and put us in a position to win.”  

Once again it was Tre Gantt, HSE’s No. 3 hitter, who came up with the game-winning RBI.  “He’s a heck of a ballplayer,” Henson said.  “He doesn’t do a whole lot wrong.  And when he does, he’s so even-keel, he doesn’t let it get to him. He’s the type of guy I love having on a team, the type of guy I loved playing with when I played.”  

The Royals took a 1-0 lead in the second.  Curry led off with a base hit and advanced on Hunter Hardee's sacrifice.  Curry took third on Brendan Burns's fly out to center and scored on a wild pitch by NC starter Jensen Kirch. 

HSE kept the inning alive when Jake Watrous and Erik DeWael rapped back-to-back singles.  NC ended the threat, however, when Kirch and shortstop Andrew Riley perfectly executed a pickoff play at second base. 

The Panthers (21-8) made it 1-1 in the top of the third.  Andrew Sullivan drew a leadoff walk and moved up on a sac bunt by Roman Baisa.  Andrew Riley followed with a run-scoring hit to right that went for a double when HSE’s Burns slipped on the outfield grass.  

Gantt put the Royals back in front in the third.  Mileke Austin started the inning with a walk and went to second on Matt Nash's sacrifice.  With a 3-1 count, Gantt plated Austin with an opposite-field double that sailed beyond the reach of NC left-fielder Gui Earlywine. 

“I believe it was a fastball, just a little bit away,” said Gantt.  “They worked me away, so I had to get up on the plate and try to take it the other way.” 

Twice in the late innings, the Panthers stifled HSE scoring opportunities.  In the fifth, Mitch Roman clubbed a two-out triple to center.  NC starter Kirch retired the side by whiffing Curry on a 3-2 pitch. 

With one out in the sixth, HSE had runners at first and third.  But NC’s Andrew Sullivan started a 4-6-3 double play to douse the Royals’ hopes.  

Curry walked Demetrius Webb to start the seventh.  HSE got two quick outs when third baseman Erik DeWael snared pinch-hitter Jacob Zeller’s popped-up bunt attempt and Mileke Austin made a diving catch of Brian Butchee’s dying quail to left.  

The Panthers filled the sacks when Roman Baisa bunted for a base hit and Andrew Riley drew a free pass.  “It happens all the time to pitchers,” said Curry.  “I just kept on throwing.  I had confidence in myself, confidence in my teammates to back me up.  That’s all you can do.”  

Curry then fired a 1-2 heater that Lozer swung at and missed to end the game.  “It (the fastball) was working really well for me,” said Curry.  “I was just throwing it in there and letting the ball do the work.”  

While Curry will attend Wabash this fall, Upchurch’s college plans are still up in the air.  “I’m undecided,” said Upchurch.  “I’m at my peak this year.  I’m still looking for a scholarship.  I’ve been admitted to DePauw, and that’s probably where I’m gonna go.  But I’m still not sure yet.”   

Gantt, HSE's junior center fielder, went 6-for-11 in three sectional contests.  His pair of home runs provided all of HSE’s scoring in Thursday’s 2-1, nine-inning win over Westfield.  Gantt’s stats for the three games at Zionsville included the two homers, a triple, a double and five RBI.  “I was going through a little slump before the tournament started,” he said.  “We had a lot of practice, and it all worked out.”  

Kirch went all the way for the Panthers.  The senior right-hander gave up eight hits and an intentional walk while striking out five. 

North Central coach Phil McIntyre, who had hoped to lead the Panthers to their first sectional title since 2006, tipped his hat to the victors.  “They got their key hits, and we didn’t,” he said.  “It was a good game.  It came down to defense and pitching, like it always does.  Upchurch was on tonight.  He did a great job.”  

Tuesday’s game was originally scheduled for Monday but was postponed due to inclement weather. 

Notes:  The last time Dan Roman watched his son play, the first-year Carmel coach had mixed feelings.  That was Monday, when Mitch Roman, HSE's second baseman and cleanup hitter, went 1-for-3 with a double and an RBI in the Royals' 5-0 semifinal win over the Greyhounds. 

Prior to Tuesday night's game, Mitch talked about playing against his father’s team.  “It was an experience, to say the least, going out there and competing against someone I look up to,” he said. 

Prior to the HSE-Carmel semifinal, Mitch said he and his father discussed the game.   “There was a little conversation going on,” he explained.  “He told me who was pitching for them, and I told him who we were pitching.” 

After the Royals beat Carmel, Mitch received congratulations from his dad.  “He came home, told me I had a good game, and said he loved me,” said Mitch.  “And he told us to go out there and win this one.” 

Mitch said Dan – who guided Lawrence Central to the state 4A title in 2004 – would be in the stands for Tuesday’s game.  “He'll be here with the rest of my family.” 

Would Dan be cheering for HSE this time?  “Of course!” said Mitch. “He'll be rooting for me.”