Confidence, tenacity send Raiders back to semistateJune 2, 2019
By HENDRIX MAGLEY
HUNTINGBURG — Before the postseason began, Southridge senior center fielder Tucker Schank wasn’t quite sure if he’d ever play in League Stadium again.
He was well aware of the fact the Raiders would have to get past a tough foe in Linton if they wanted to get a final chance to play on their home field.
Once Southridge knew for certain they were going to get to play in Huntingburg again after defeating the Miners last Monday, the seniors were determined to leave the field as winners.
“Tucker Schank came up to me before the game and said ‘I won’t lose my last game on my home field — I won’t let it happen,” Southridge head coach Gene Mattingly said. “I told him to tell that message to the rest of the team and make it happen.”
It’s safe to say his statement came through loud and clear. After falling behind 1-0 to North Posey early, Southridge (20-9) used a combination of solid contact and smart, efficient pitching by sophomore starter Ethan Bell to defeat the Vikings 5-1 and advance to the semistate round for the second consecutive season.
“Being able to come back here one last time and play two games in front of amazing crowds — I think the whole town of Huntingburg was here — is just really memorable,” Schank said. “I’m blessed to continue this run, especially with this team.”
Southridge defeated Austin 6-0 in the semifinal game to set themselves up with a championship game appearance. In the morning game, the Raiders were led by a solid pitching performance from starter Weston Allen (5 innings pitched, three hits given up, four strikeouts) and a solid day at the plate from sophomore shortstop Colson Montgomery (two doubles).
In the championship game, Mattingly gave the nod to Bell on the mound. The sophomore ace entered the game with a 7-1 record and had been able to pitch extremely well in tough situations.
He pitched another extremely solid game as he gave up just one earned run and seven hits while striking out 10 batters in the regional championship victory.
“It’s a real eye-opener I guess you can say,” said Bell, on being named the starter in another important game. “It gives me so much more confidence on the mound with how much they trust me.”
But what led Bell to the 10 strikeouts? Well, the answer was rather simple.
“I found the hook,” Bell said with a laugh. “Once I found the curveball, that really helped.”
North Posey (23-8) took the lead right away courtesy of an RBI single from first baseman Chase Christie but the Raiders would waste no time getting back into the game. After a Bell single and back-to-back walks loaded the bases in the second inning, junior designated hitter Cort Gerber blooped a single into center field to tie the game at 1-1. Two plays later, Schank’s RBI groundout gave the Raiders a 2-1 advantage.
“Last year in the regional, North Posey went up on us 1-0 in a similar situation but we did a great job of keeping our cool,” said senior right fielder Joe LaGrange. “We knew we’d get our bats going and that’s exactly what we did.”
Sophomore third baseman Camden Gasser added on to the Raider lead in the fourth inning with an RBI single that scored freshman second baseman Carter Whitehead but the Raiders’ final big inning came in the bottom of the sixth.
Looking for some insurance, Southridge took a 4-1 lead as Schank scored on a wild pitch and then Bell helped his cause by adding an RBI single to score Gasser to put the Raiders ahead 5-1.
In the top of the seventh, Bell sat the first two guys down via strikeouts and junior first baseman Conner Oxley sealed the regional title by catching a lineout to end the game.
“It’s a really good feeling — a lot of people doubted us because of our tough schedule but we battled through,” Oxley said. “We showed that we deserve to be here.”
Gasser added: “We’ve had our ups and downs but we’re clicking at the right time. All we do is win right now so we need to keep it going.”
Southridge will face South Vermillion (24-5) in the semistate game this weekend with a location still yet to be determined as a few of the regional games were postponed until tonight due to inclement weather.
The Raiders are determined to make their second straight trip to the IHSAA State Finals as they’re not ready to see this season come to an end just yet.
“It’s a fight, it’s a desire, it’s a refuse to lose — all of those cliches. These guys live that everyday, it’s just what they do,” Mattingly said. “These guys hate losing more than they like to win, they’ll celebrate like crazy when they win but they hate to lose and that’s what you see when they’re down. They’ll always find a way to keep grinding and keep fighting.”
LaGrange added: “You never get tired of winning, it’s what you live for. This being my senior year, I don’t ever want it to end.”
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