KOKOMO – The high fives and smiles, so commonplace the past few weeks for the Lapel baseball team were instead replaced with blank stares on Monday afternoon.

Huddled together one last time after falling to sixth-ranked Frontier 9-1 at Highland Park Stadium, the Bulldogs understandably took a moment to replay their season-ending loss. But once the tears stopped, the players were quick to realize the reality of it all.

“Being here this year will only give us more experience for next year,” Lapel junior Brad Skaggs commented after the Bulldogs’ season concluded in the Kokomo Semistate opener. “We’re looking forward to next year … and no one’s leaving us so we’ll all be back again.”

Without a single senior on the roster and four freshman starters, Lapel exceeded expectations, winning the program’s second sectional title in three years and the team’s first regional crown in school history.

“I’m real proud of this team,” sophomore shortstop Jake Vicars said. “Coming from a sub-par team in April when nobody thought we would win sectional and getting this far was great. It’s a horrible way to end it, but we had a good run.”

The Falcons, who knocked off Class 1A powerhouse Lafayette Central Catholic in the sectional and won their first regional title since 1999, provided the bitter pill.

Frontier pushed seven runners across the plate through the first two innings and received a dominant performance from their senior ace Daniel Brackett, who proved too much for Lapel to overcome.

“He just did the job against us today. We got a couple hits here and there, but we weren’t able to muster anything,” Lapel coach Eric Hagan remarked. “That guy just shut us down.”

The right-hander scattered six hits and walked one compared to 13 strikeouts for the complete game victory, improving his season mark to 7-2.

At the plate, Frontier (25-7) was just as daunting, chasing Lapel junior starter David Addington in the second inning and logging four extra base hits and 12 total in the game.

Charlie Yerk led the Falcons offensively going 3-for-3 with two RBIs, while Scott Schnepp hit a two-run home run in the second pushing the deficit to 6-0 with two outs in the top of the second.

“That team can flat out hit. That’s probably the best hitting club we’ve seen all season,” Hagan noted. “They’re deserving of that No. 6 ranking.”

On the verge of potential 10-run rule victory as Frontier led 7-0 in the third inning, Skaggs entered in relief and stymied the Falcons for three hits and four strikeouts in four-plus innings of work.

“Getting down against a quality ball club like that, it’s tough to come back, but we did a good job of hanging in there and weathering the storm,” Hagan said. “They need to keep their heads up. That’s a quality ball club that beat us. I have no problem taking a loss when another team beats you. It’s when we don’t play well and we take the loss that I have problems, but I have no problems with today.”

Lapel (16-13) erased Brackett’s attempt at a shutout in the third inning as freshman outfielder Andrew Paschal led off the frame with a double for the team’s lone extra base hit.

With two outs, Addington drove in Paschal, who advanced to third base on a wild pitch, with a single to centerfield.

The Bulldogs wouldn’t get another run in scoring position as Brackett retired 13 of the last 15 batters he faced to advance the Falcons into the semistate championship game.

“We haven’t been here before, so we’ll learn from this,” said Hagan. “I’m proud of my guys. They didn’t put their heads down. They kept battling. I’m just proud of the season they had.”

A season built on chemistry, according to assistant coach Randy Valentine, who has coached baseball for more than 30 years.

“This is a special group,” Valentine remarked. “They all get along and all of them act just like brothers. It’s more like a family than anything I’ve ever seen … and their all coming back.”

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