By George Bremer
The Herald Bulletin
PENDLETON, Ind. —
Like many teams in the area, Frankton spent much of its baseball spring practice time in the high school gymnasium.
It’s surprising how quickly it can get crowded and suffocating in such an otherwise open space when an entire team is dreaming of nothing more than stepping outside.
Perhaps that’s why even a pair of extended lightning delays couldn’t slow the Eagles’ roll Wednesday in the Nick Muller Memorial Baseball Tournament.
Frankton endured a 35-minute delay before scoring three runs in the bottom of the first inning and waited 31 minutes to put the finishing touches on a nine-run third, blasting Liberty Christian 18-0 to reach the tournament semifinals for the first time since 2006 and just the second time in 13 years overall.
“I can’t complain,” Eagles coach Greg Hughes said of his team’s early efforts. “In a game like that, the hardest thing is staying in the game. We scored nine runs, who’s to say they can’t come back and score nine and get right back in it?”
That wasn’t a problem thanks to the outstanding pitching of Sam Richwine and Chase Smith. The pair limited the Lions to just four hits and extended Frankton’s scoreless innings streak to 10 to start the season.
Liberty Christian’s lone threat came in the first when Robert Beisley singled to open the game. He was erased on a line-drive double play. But Preston Quinn walked, and Justin Krieg singled and advanced on a throwing error to put runners on second and third with two outs.
Richwine struck out Karl Winters to end the threat, one of nine Ks by Eagle pitchers on the day — including five of the six batters Smith faced in relief.
“We’ve gotta be on our toes,” Hughes said of Frankton’s semifinal matchup against host Pendleton Heights today. “The bad thing about the first two games (including an 11-0 victory against Elwood on Tuesday) is really our defense hasn’t been tested much. We don’t know how they’re going to react against a team that’s (regularly) putting the ball in play.”
The Eagles didn’t always need to put the ball in play to be effective against the Lions. Liberty Christian’s four pitchers issued 11 walks and hit one batter. Nine of those 12 free base runners came around to score.
Trevor Hughes did the most damage with RBI triples in the first and second innings as Frankton pulled out to a 4-0 lead. Liberty Christian showed Hughes the ultimate respect in the third inning, walking him intentionally to load the bases.
Matt Kunce and Austin Webb each had two-run singles during the nine-run third inning, and nine Eagles had at least one hit as Greg Hughes played everyone on his varsity roster.
The Eagles are scheduled to face the Arabians at 5 p.m. today with a spot in Saturday’s championship game on the line. Anderson and defending champion Alexandria play in the other semifinal at Memorial Field at 5 p.m.
Elwood and Anderson Prep were scheduled to play a consolation bracket game Wednesday at Pendleton Heights, but the contest was rained out in the first inning. Talks were ongoing to move that contest, and the following game that will pit the winner against Liberty Christian, to Frankton today.
Officials advised fans to check with their local schools for updated scheduling information.