By George Bremer
The Herald Bulletin
---- — ANDERSON — Lapel and Anderson have very different histories in the Nick Muller Memorial Baseball Tournament.
The three-time champion Tribe has nine appearances in the championship game, tied with Pendleton Heights for the most in the event's 13-year history. The Bulldogs, meanwhile, are looking to reach the title game for just the second time and the first since 2007.
On Wednesday at Memorial Field, however, the two programs looked very similar.
Anderson opened the tournament with a 14-4 dismantling of Madison-Grant, and Lapel followed with an equally impressive 12-1 win against Liberty Christian to set up a semifinal showdown Friday.
"We've played them close the last two years, getting a split," Bulldogs coach Brad Lantz said of the impending showdown with the Indians. "They're one of those guys that are always in the finals every year. They know what that's like, we don't. We're going to have to come out ready to fight."
Lapel (2-1) looked a bit rusty early against the Lions. The Bulldogs spent last week on spring break and had a Monday game against Wes-Del postponed because of rain.
Liberty Christian, meanwhile, came in riding a 3-0 start, determined to keep the momentum going.
The Lions drew first blood in the second inning when Dalton Miller reached on an infield single, advanced to second on a throwing error, stole third and scored on another throwing error. All four of Lapel's errors were committed in the first two innings.
But Lantz made no excuses for his team's slow start.
"They've got a pretty good ballclub," he said of the opposition. "They're getting better every year. I told our guys on the way over they're an aggressive team, and they're going to come to play."
Liberty Christian's aggression was muted a bit by the loss of starting pitcher Preston Quinn in the bottom of the first inning. After reaching on an error, the senior injured his hand diving back to the bag on a pick-off attempt.
Robert Beisley came on in relief and threw a solid second inning before getting roughed up in the third. Lapel sent nine batters to the plate in the frame. Dane Mason tied the game with an RBI-single, and Cade Luker put the Bulldogs ahead with a two-run triple. John Magers capped the inning with an RBI-double to make it 4-1.
Mason added another RBI-single in the fourth and a sacrifice fly in the fifth. He finished the day 3-for-3 with a double and four RBIs. Luker added a fifth-inning double, giving the Bulldogs No. 4 and 5 hitters a combined total of three extra-base hits and six RBIs.
"They're not both going to hit like that every day," Lantz said. "But there's a good chance one of those guys will be hitting like that (on any given day) behind Brady (Cherry). And you've seen the damage they can do if opponents decide to put him on base, whether it's intentional or not."
Cherry — the reigning Herald Bulletin player of the year — walked twice against the Lions and added a two-run double in the fifth. He also picked up the win on the mound, allowing just an unearned run and one hit through three innings.
Anderson also took awhile to get started in the first game of the evening. The Indians trailed Madison-Grant 1-0 when Julius Neal led off the bottom of the third inning with a double to straightaway center field.
He scored to tie the game on a double by Braden Odom, and the Indians took the lead one batter later on a sacrifice fly by Joe Moran. Drew Laughlin followed with a single to make it 3-1, and the Tribe never trailed again.
Anderson (1-3) moved ahead 8-1 with a five-run fourth inning that included a sacrifice fly by Odom and an RBI-single by Moran. Odom finished 2-for-3 with four RBIs, and Moran was 2-for-3 with two RBIs. Neal finished 3-for-3.
"This is still like six days outside for us," Indians coach Terry Turner said, noting that four of those days have been game days. "It's just kind of different. I'm still playing around with the lineup. I'm still learning this team."
Madison-Grant cut the deficit to 8-4 on a three-run homer by Caleb Whybrew in the top of the fifth, but the Tribe ended the game with six runs in the bottom of the frame.
Odom's two-run double was the big hit of the inning, and Jordan Hill — who finished 2-for-4 with three runs scored — ended the game with an infield single that scored Moran.
"This group has a lot of talent, but they're young and they're inexperienced," Turner said. "I've got a lot of teaching to do, and I'm probably going to have to be more patient that I'm used to. But, somewhere along the line, I've got a feeling this is all going to come together."
Thursday's schedule at Pendleton Heights Pendleton Heights vs. Alexandria, 5 p.m. Anderson Prep vs. Elwood, 6:30 p.m.