ANDERSON — Madison County Elite head coach Curtis Chapman was already surprised his team had made it this far. Sunday, Chapman’s all-star team had narrowly beaten the Noblesville Gold team, the team he felt was the one to beat in the Babe Ruth 16-18 State Tournament, 7-3 in a nine-inning thriller to advance to the championship game against the Elwood Seniors.
Then, Chapman found out his No. 1 pitcher, Zach Sanderson, wouldn’t be able to pitch in Tuesday night’s championship game due to a work conflict. After the top of the second inning against Elwood, his team was down 5-0.
Chapman, a normally boisterous coach by his own description, said he knew that with enough time, his team would come out firing on all cylinders.
It didn’t disappoint. With three runs in the bottom of the second inning, followed by four more in the fourth, the Madison County Elite never looked back, taking the championship game 9-5 and moving on to the Ohio Valley Regional held in Chesterton, beginning July 17.
Without Sanderson on the mound, Chapman had to rely on Conner Johnson in the first few innings to get things going. Normally the team’s middle reliever, Johnson was managing to throw strikes, but Elwood was just connecting with the right pitches to create singles and move guys around the bases.
“He threw strikes, but they hit the ball,” Chapman said. “We made some errors in that first inning that we normally don’t make, and that’s what got them on top.
“I’m usually yelling, but I laid back and let them get back into the groove, and then we were rolling.”
After Elwood scored three runs through the middle of the second inning, Chapman felt like it was time for a change on the mound, subbing in Caleb York, who the Madison County head coach said had always been a reliable pitcher.