By Bill Cross
For The Herald Bulletin
LAPEL, Ind. —
The steady rain that fell Monday night at Lapel High School could not dampen the enthusiasm as the Bulldogs held off a couple of challenges by rival Frankton to win 6-3 and take the baseball Sectional 40 title.
It is the program’s sixth in its history and first since 2005-06.
Brady Cherry pitched 6 2/3 innings to pick up the win, and freshman Nolan Clark smacked a three-run homer to stake the Bulldogs to a 3-0 lead in the second that they would not relinquish.
Clark took Frankton starter Logan Weins deep to left-center field in the top of the second after Dane Mason singled and Cade Luker was hit by a pitch. It was his first career varsity home run and gave the Bulldogs an early shot in the arm.
The Eagles battled back in the third, scoring two runs after Jarrett Simon rang a lead-off triple to centerfield. Trevor Hughes hit a sac fly to score Simon.
Cherry struck out Bailey Threet for the second out before Weins hit a single and scored on a long single by Jon Griffey. Clark ended the threat with a sliding catch on a fly ball by Matt Kunce.
Lapel got the runs right back in the fourth, as Clark singled and John Magers reached on an error. Both scored on a two-run single by Todd Sherwood for a 5-2 Lapel lead.
Lapel extended the lead to 6-2 in the fifth on two Eagle errors before rain halted play for about five minutes.
Frankton had two golden opportunities to get back in the game in the sixth and seventh but only had one run to show for it.
TJ Eads walked with one out in the sixth and reached third on a hard single by Austin Chapman. Blaine Reed hit a sac fly to score Eads and cut the lead to 6-3.
Simon singled and Trevor Hughes walked to load the bases with two outs. Cherry bounced back to fan Austin Webb, ending the threat.
The Eagles again loaded the bases in the seventh with a steady rain falling. Cherry retired Weins on a called third strike for the first out but walked Griffey. Kunce went down looking for the second out, but Eads singled and Chapman coaxed a hard-earned walk to load the bases.
With the count 2-0 on Chapman, Lapel coach Brad Lantz went to Adam Taylor to nail down the game.
Lantz knew it would not be a popular decision with Cherry, but Cherry knows it is a team game.
“He (Cherry) has a lot of emotion, and that’s good,” Lantz said of his sophomore. “But we have a senior (Taylor) ready to go, and we knew the conditions would not bother him.”
When asked if he was ready to come out, Cherry had a direct answer.
“Absolutely not,” he said. “But this is a team game. Adam came in and got the job done, that is what is important.”
After the walk was issued to Chapman, Reed hit a grounder to third and was thrown out at first to set off the celebration.
“(It’s) awesome,” Cherry said of the championship. “It’s great, especially after the year we’ve had.”
The year that Cherry spoke of included six losses after leading in the sixth inning.
“It explains 12-12 (Lapel’s record),” Lantz said. “But the last two games (Wapahani, Frankton) we have put seven innings together.”
For Frankton coach Greg Hughes, it was a game of missed opportunities.
“We outhit them, but we did not get the clutch hits,” Hughes said. “They all did a good job. They were the better team today.”
Altogether, Frankton left 11 runners on base and outhit Lapel 9-5. But the Eagles also led 4-0 in the errors column.
Lapel got its production from the bottom of the order as the 6-7-8-9 hitters had four of the Bulldogs’ hits.
The Bulldogs move on to play the Wabash sectional winner at the Wabash regional in a semifinal game at 1 p.m. Saturday.
Frankton finishes 14-9 and will lose Griffey, Eads, Hughes and Chase Smith to graduation.