KOKOMO — He only faced one jam on the day, and once he escaped that trouble, Brennan Morehead could smell the finish line for Alexandria's Saturday Class 2A North Semistate showdown with Whiting.
He'll get the ball one more time this season with a chance to make a little Alexandria history.
Morehead fanned 11 in spinning a three-hit shutout while Nick Williams and Rylan Metz drove in two runs each as the Tigers blanked Whiting 9-0 for the school's second all-time semistate championship.
Alexandria (28-6) will face Southridge (17-8) at Victory Field either June 17 or June 18 for the IHSAA State Championship, its first trip to the finals since it won the 1998 2A title.
Whiting finishes its season at 15-12.
"A lot of stuff doesn't bother (Morehead), he knows we're going to score," Alexandria coach Jeff Closser said. "The way we swing the bats, you'd better be able to score runs. I'm not trying to be bold, but that's what we do."
The Tigers wasted little time swinging those bats, jumping on the Oilers in the top of the first inning, with Morehead contributing with his bat as well.
With one out, Kole Stewart singled and stole second, bringing Morehead to the plate. He lined a single to right to score Stewart. When the Whiting right fielder booted the ball, he scooted on to second. From there, he scored on a single by Williams, staking himself to a 2-0 lead.
As it turned out, he got plenty of offensive support, but the two runs were all he needed.
Aside from a soft single to left with two outs in the first inning, Morehead did not allow a baserunner through the first four frames. He struck out seven during that stretch, including four in a row in the third and fourth innings.
The key was the game plan of not only throwing first-pitch strikes, but throwing breaking balls on the first pitch. Morehead executed it well, repeatedly getting ahead of hitters and not facing a three-ball count until the fifth inning.
"The scouting report said to pitch them backwards, to start them with the curveball," Closser said. "They like to swing at the fastball. He pitched to the scouting report perfect."
"I'd say 90 percent, maybe more than that honestly, that they took that first pitch," Morehead said. "Most of the time, it was a breaking ball and they don't want to see a breaking ball. They're a fastball-hitting team, and we knew that coming in."
The Tigers provided some cushion for Morehead with three runs in the top of the fifth on only one hit.
Cade Vernetti was hit by a pitch to lead off the inning, and Trey Stokes walked. Stewart then laid down a sacrifice bunt, but when the Oilers failed to throw out the lead runner, the Tigers had the bases loaded with nobody out. Vernetti then scored on a balk, and Whiting seemed to be on the verge of escaping disaster when Williams lined into a double play.
But a throwing error by Whiting catcher Daniel Canning, his first of two in the game, and an RBI double by Metz gave Morehead and the Tigers a commanding 5-0 lead.
Morehead then retired the first two batters in the bottom of the fifth, a routine fly to right and a strikeout, on just five pitches before running into his first, and only, tough inning.
Ethan Harbin singled to center, the first Oilers baserunner since the first inning, before Morehead temporarily lost the strike zone, walking back-to-back hitters to load the bases.
But leadoff hitter Joel Torres lifted a soft fly to Metz in right to end the inning and the only threat Whiting posed.
Escaping that threat, and Vernetti manufacturing another Tigers run with his legs in the top of the sixth, seemed to rejuvenate Morehead.
"I struggled in that inning, but when we got a run on the board, it helped me relax," Morehead said. "It made me a lot more comfortable and that I could just pitch to contact and let the defense work."
He came back with a routine bottom of the sixth before the Alex bats stayed hot in their final at-bat.
Stewart hit a ringing double to left, and Morehead singled to start the inning. Williams (single), Metz (sacrifice fly) and Brayton Gaines (groundout) followed with RBI to cap the scoring and set the stage for Morehead to finish things off.
Following two groundouts, Morehead recorded his 11th strikeout and the Tigers were off to celebrate their first semistate championship since 1998. The next time he takes the ball for Closser and the Tigers will be at Victory Field.
"I can't wait," Morehead said. "It's just another ballgame, I've got to relax and let the game come to me. I can't wait for it."