By Jason Haddix
For The Herald Bulletin
WABASH, Ind. — Elwood entered Saturday night’s Wabash Regional baseball finals riding the high emotions of its come-from-behind victory in the semifinals. Unfortunately for the Panthers that was not enough to overcome top-rated Wapahani and a lights-out pitching performance.
Wapahani starting pitcher Zach Thompson dominated the Elwood hitters as the Panthers fell to the Raiders 4-0 at Chris Rood Field on the campus of Wabash High School.
“Tough way to go out,” Elwood coach Andy Garcia said. “We knew it coming into it.”
The Panthers struggled offensively against the sophomore hurler who recorded 17 strikeouts and allowed just two hits in the complete game shutout.
Eleven of the first 12 Elwood outs were via the strikeout, including the first seven. Thompson was responsible for all three outs in four of the seven innings. His defense recorded just three outs.
The other Panthers' out came when Greyson Savage was picked off first base to end the fifth inning.
“I think he is the best we have ever seen,” Garcia said of Thompson. “He has got a great curveball. Early on, it looked like he was locating the outside pretty well — good spot pitching.”
Wapahani coach Brian Dudley has coached high school baseball for 31 years and ranks Thompson’s performance high on his list of player performances.
“It was one of the best — when you strike out 17 of 21 outs that is pretty doggone good,” he said. “He was really composed today from the first pitch to the last pitch. It was just lights out.”
Jared Bourff got the first Elwood hit with one out in the bottom of the fourth inning and went to second on a fielding error by Drew Brant, but the senior went no further.
Elwood managed just four other base runners, one of which was a seventh-inning triple by Denver Mays as Collin Hoots lost the high fly ball in the dark sky.
Wapahani, on the other hand, pounded out nine hits and scored two runs in each of the second and fourth innings.
Will Dailey got the start for Elwood and gave up all four of Wapahani’s runs in his 3 2/3 innings of work. The sophomore gave up seven hits, struck out one and walked one.
Garcia pulled Forrest Wright from his shortstop position to pitch in relief, and once again the senior tossed quality innings and kept Wapahani in reach.
“He came in and did his job,” Garcia said. “He has done it all year for us. He is probably one of the best relievers I have seen.”
Wright pitched 3 1/3 innings, gave up just two hits and struck out two.
“I am more of a spot pitcher than what I am a junk pitcher,” the senior said. “I try to hit my spots inside and work away.”
Garcia entered the season with hopes of being an over .500 team, and the Panthers accomplished that and more as they finished 20-13.
“(It) was a great accomplishment, honestly,” the first-year coach said. “Going through as many coaches as they have and being able to adjust to different coaches and coaching staffs — top-notch ballplayers.”