By George Bremer
The Herald Bulletin
ANDERSON, Ind. —
Throughout Saturday’s Nick Muller Memorial Baseball Tournament, Brogan Gary had a single message for his starting pitcher.
Let them know about you.
Pendleton Heights senior Taylor Rogers did just that -- allowing just two hits, striking out six and going the distance in an 8-1 victory against rival Anderson that extended the Arabians’ record for championships in this event to five.
Many of the faces in Pendleton Heights’ dugout, including first-year manager Travis Keesling, are new. And the resounding decision gave the team a signature win and an immediate identity.
“We were just letting them know who we are,” Gary said after picking up his third individual Muller title. “We just battled through as a team. This was a total team victory, and we can only go forward from here.”
As Gary spoke outside the visiting dugout just beyond the third-base line, he reached under his jersey to reveal a Highland t-shirt underneath. The Arabians’ third baseman said he wears the Scots’ colors during every game. His first Muller title came with Highland in 2010, and he won again with Pendleton Heights in 2011.
Only a one-run loss against Alexandria in last year’s final stands between the Arabians and a three-year championship streak.
Despite the new look nearly throughout the lineup, Saturday’s victory had a familiar feel.
Pendleton Heights got an outstanding pitching performance – Rogers walked just one batter – and capitalized on every opportunity.
Anderson took a 1-0 lead in the third inning when Jordan Hill singled and came around to score on a passed ball. Pendleton Heights tied the score in the fourth when Chandler Wilson walked and crossed home plate when Indians catcher Jake Fox couldn’t hold on to a throw up the baseline.
Another miscue by the Tribe turned the game in the fifth.
With two outs, Gary hit a high popup that shortstop Eddie Boner couldn’t pull in. Thomas Hall and Kurt Talbert hustled home on the play to give the Arabians a 3-1 lead.
“Pendleton didn’t beat us,” Anderson coach Terry Turner said. “We hurt ourselves, and they took advantage of our errors and miscues, which is what a good team will do. It’s just very disappointing.”
The Indians, who committed eight errors, lost for the sixth time in the tournament final, and the fourth time in six meetings against Pendleton Heights.
Staked to a lead, Rogers buckled down in the late innings. He allowed just one baserunner – on a one-out walk in the seventh – over the game’s final three frames.
“We’ve got three goals for this season, and this is one of them,” Rogers said. “We want to win county, we want to win conference and we want to win sectional.”
The offense helped check the first item off the list by scoring in each of the final four innings. After tying the game in the fourth and inching ahead in the fifth, Pendleton Heights got RBI singles from Talbert and Gary to highlight a three-run sixth inning.
The Arabians added two more runs in the seventh on a single by Hall.
Anderson scored 33 runs in the first two games, but it was shut down in the final by a combination of Rogers’ execution and his defense’s hustle behind him.
Chandler Wilson, in particular, was impressive. He chased down several deep fly balls in right field and made the defensive gem of the championship round with a sliding catch down the line to rob Hill of potential extra bases leading off the fifth.
“We made hustle plays like that, and that’s what this team needs,” Gary said. “Those plays are confidence builders, and they really got us going. Our defense kept us in the game, and we just kept fighting through at-bats. We were making them work, making them throw a lot of pitches, and finally we just started loading up on them.”