Raiders bat their way to second straight sectional title

Photos by Traci Wescott/The Herald
Southridge's Camden Gasser hugs Carter Whitehead after winning Monday's Class 2A baseball sectional championship game in Mitchell. Southridge defeated Linton 6-4. For more photos from the game, click here.

BY JONATHAN SAXON
jsaxon@dcherald.com

MITCHELL — Southridge isn’t the kind of baseball team that likes to do a whole bunch of talking before their games. Sure they go in confident in their talent and skills ahead of the opening play, but they rather let their effort and actions send the message as to what their intentions are when they take the field. To that end, the Raiders sent a clear missive on Memorial Day: they are going back to the state title game, and their 6-4 win over the Linton-Stockton Miners to repeat as sectional champions is just the first step. It’s the fifth overall sectional title for the Raiders.

“Everyday is opportunity to get better so we can get back,” said Raiders (18-9, 5-2) coach Gene Mattingly. “We had to work our tails off, I don’t know that we played our best ball. That’s a really good Linton team we just beat. They didn’t let off, they did what they needed to do to get back in the ball game. We responded like champions.”

The early going was a bit slow at first as the Raiders and Miners (15-6, 5-0) struggled initially to catch up to each other’s respective starters. Senior center fielder Tucker Schank was able to lead off the bottom of the first with a line drive single to take a base, but the next two batters behind him were fanned by junior Miners ace Kip Fougerousse. But then sophomore catcher Chase Taylor stepped in the batter’s box and used the Raiders’ second hit to drive in Schank for the 1-0 lead.

The next one-and-a-half innings went by with no hits; nine batters went up and nine batters went down with no one making it past first base. But fireworks were coming in the bottom of the third inning. Sophomore shortstop Colson Montgomery went to the plate with Schank and sophomore third baseman Camden Gasser on the bags, and he had taken notice to a pattern in the pitching he was receiving from Fougerousse.

“My first at-bat he threw me a curve ball and it was down, so I was thinking he was going to keep giving me curveballs,” he said. “Later in Tucker’s at-bat he was throwing his curveballs down also. So I was thinking he’s going to hang one, and what we always say is ‘hang it, we bang it.’”

And just as he forecasted he saw a curveball come across a bit high, and with his swing Montgomery sent the ball into orbit with a towering home run that sailed over the right field wall and put the Raiders up 4-0.

But the Miners had no intentions of rolling over in the face of a four-run deficit; their plans instead were to rally. In the top of the fourth inning Fougerousse netted a single before he was replaced by courtesy runner Jaydan Miller. Then with two outs junior first baseman Kenny Anderson claimed a base hit and sent in Miller for the Miners’ first run.

The Raiders cheer for Colson Montgomery after he hit a home run during Monday's Class 2A baseball sectional championship game in Mitchell. Southridge defeated Linton 6-4. For more photos from the game, click here.

The retaliation continued into the fifth inning. Fougerousse once again found a single against sophomore starter Ethan Bell as he hit a grounder that enjoyed the benefit of a late hop to bounce past Montgomery and scored senior designated hitter Jalen Boyll. Junior center fielder Cash Howard, who reached the bags earlier on a single, came in soon after as a wild pitch got past Taylor and left the plate open for a third run. The tying score came after senior third baseman Cory Anderson hit another grounder and somehow beat the throw from short to first base, which allowed Miller to come in once again for the fourth run.

But the Raiders were able to regroup and land the decisive blow in the bottom of the fifth. First Gasser drew a walk and was followed by Montgomery after he took a base hit. Then Taylor walked up to hit. He quickly found himself down two strikes to the pitcher, but then he received a pleasant surprise across the plate.

“I was looking for a curveball,” he said. “I was sitting curveball, reacted to fastball and put it over to right field.”

His reaction lead to a standing triple which drove in Gasser and Montgomery for the 6-4 lead that the Raiders never relinquished.

Bell pitched all seven with 10 hits for four runs, one walk, and a strikeout. Taylor went 3-for-3 with three RBI. Montgomery went 2-for-3 with three RBI.

Fougerousse pitched six innings with 10 hits for six runs, two walks, and six strikeouts. Fougerousse also went 2-for-3 with a runner batted in. Cory Anderson also had an RBI.

“Last year as a freshman it was awesome,” said Bell. “Coming back-to-back, going back to League Stadium this year (for regional), it’s just something else. It means a lot."

“It’s a blessing,” added Montgomery. “Not many people can come out and do this two years in a row. We do it for each other, we’re just trying to go out and compete for each other. We don’t want to let the person next to us down.”

Mattingly said that the team has been great offensively, as evidenced by them outscoring their opponents 32-4 during sectional which includes two shutouts, but he wants the team to amp it up all the way around as they focus on making their way back to the state title game. He feels that the Raiders have not peaked as a baseball team and points to the defense as an immediate area of improvement.

“We haven’t been real crisp defensively,” said Mattingly. “We misplayed a few balls, extended an inning or two. We’ll clean it up, we’ll be ready for the weekend.”

The Raiders will be back at their home stadium to take on the Austin Eagles (16-13, 5-4) in the regional semifinals.  But while the team is happy to host the season’s regional games, their vision for the season doesn’t end at League Stadium. To that end, they’ll look to rely on their communication in the field to cover each other and maintain confidence in their offense as they map their way back to Indianapolis.

“Coming in with confidence each game and just knowing we’ve been here, that’ll really help us in moving down the postseason,” said Taylor. “We just got to keep our heads straight, remain humble, and be ourselves.”

Southridge's Chase Taylor, left, and Kyler Neukam dump water on head coach Gene Mattingly after Monday's Class 2A baseball sectional championship game in Mitchell. Southridge defeated Linton 6-4. For more photos from the game, click here.



More on DuboisCountyHerald.com