Raiders reach second state finals of the yearJune 11, 2018
By HENDRIX MAGLEY
JASPER — After the jubilation from the Southridge dugout and the celebratory dogpile on Raider starting pitcher Logan Seger following the final out of Southridge’s 7-2 baseball semistate victory over Indianapolis Scecina Saturday at Ruxer Field in Jasper, the realization of what exactly was happening began to set in.
Another Raider boys team was going to the state finals this school year.
After winning the Class 2A state championship in football last fall by defeating Woodlan 15-14, the Raiders now have a chance to win their second state championship of the school year after Saturday’s Indiana High School Athletic Association Class 2A baseball semistate victory. It will be the baseball team’s first state finals appearance in school history.
“It’s absolutely phenomenal, all of this has just made me so speechless,” said senior Colin Smith who went 1-for-3 with a single and also drew a pair of walks. Smith was also a key member of the Raider football state championship team. “Just being able to go to one state finals is a once-in-a-lifetime type of thing and to do it twice in one year is just absolutely amazing, there’s nothing like it.”
Early in the game, Southridge (25-6) had trouble bringing in runners to score. In the first inning, Smith had a single and Colson Montgomery had a ringing double but the runners got stranded on second and third as Scecina starting pitcher Taylor Mitchell struck out Chase Taylor and forced Jayce Harter into a groundout. In the second inning, Max Sermersheim and Camden Gasser got on first and second via a single and a walk but they were once again stranded on the bases.
After Scecina left a few runners stranded in the first inning as well, the Crusaders started to get things going in the top of the third inning. Eli Phillips hit a whopping double into right field that Southridge outfielder Joe LaGrange bobbled a bit which allowed catcher Jameson Welborn for the first run of the game. Later in the inning, Andrew Lowery drove in Phillips on a sacrifice fly to make it 2-0 Crusaders.
“Just like how North Posey got on us first last week (in the regional championship), we knew just two runs wasn’t going to beat us, I mean you have to score to win a ball game anyway and we knew our time was coming,” said Tucker Schank who finished 3-for-4 with two RBIs and a double. Schank will be appearing in his third state finals this school year as he was a member of the football team and advanced as an individual in the IHSAA wrestling state finals.
“We just kept pounding, putting guys on the bases and just kept putting pressure on them,” he said. “They also kicked the ball around in some key situations which helped a bit, you need a little fortune to go your way and I feel like a lot of that was forced by our pressure.”
Things started to go the Raiders’ way in the bottom of the third inning when Schank and Montgomery led off the inning with singles and then Harter drove in Schank for the Raiders’ first run of the game. Southridge had a chance to take a lead in the third inning, but once again, runners were left stranded on first and second.
However, the floodgates started to open for the Southridge offense in the bottom of the fourth inning. Once one batter got on base, the momentum just kept flowing and flowing up and down the lineup. Seger started the inning with a single and was replaced by courtesy runner Patrick Sander who was moved up to second base by a sacrifice bunt from Gasser. Schank drove in the game-tying run with an RBI single while Montgomery and Taylor followed that up with RBIs of their own to make it 4-2. Southridge scored two more runs off of an Indianapolis Scecina error to make it 6-2 and scored their final run of the game in the bottom of the fifth inning when Schank drove in Sander on an RBI double to make the score 7-2.
“One thing went right for us and then another and something just clicked. We just felt a wave of momentum and that’s been huge for us,” Schank said. “We’ve lived off of our waves and momentum all season and we found another one in the fourth inning which was huge because we hadn’t gotten much across.”
Raider head coach Gene Mattingly added, “We’re a pretty athletic team and once we get some momentum, eventually we’ll get them to break. We thrive on big numbers and big innings with crooked numbers and it was kind of the difference today.”
After allowing a few runs early in Saturday’s game, Seger calmed himself down on the mound and held the Crusaders scoreless for the final four innings of the game.
When the final few innings neared, Mattingly and the Raiders had freshman reliever Ethan Bell warm up in the bullpen in case of an emergency, but the Southridge ace, who Mattingly has often referred to as their “bulldog,” wanted to finish the job himself.
“I went out to the mound and I told him that he has to be our bulldog because it’s been that way the whole year,” Mattingly said. “His stuff hadn’t been that great but he was competing his tail off so I told him to give me six more outs, he just nodded his head and just like that he got six more outs.”
Seger, who finished the day with six strikeouts after giving up just five hits and one earned run, added: “Just all of the work I put toward this in the offseason — I know these guys and our coaches have worked our butts off to get us here and I’m just so happy it’s worked out this way.”
What made Seger and the Raiders even more happy was seeing the outpouring of support from the Southridge faithful who took over Ruxer Field in Jasper in Raider black and red apparel on Saturday afternoon.
Due to the close proximity from Huntingburg to Jasper, the players had a feeling the stands would be packed with a plethora of Raider faithful, but they weren’t expecting the seats to be full nearly an hour before first pitch.
“It’s crazy, we knew since we were coming to Jasper that we’d have a big crowd but I could’ve never imagined anything this big — it’s just crazy and wonderful,” Seger said.
Smith added: “The community has definitely been a big part of our team, we are what our fans are and we play for our community.”
The Raiders will take on Boone Grove (20-5) in the Class 2A state championship game at 2 p.m. on Saturday at Victory Field in Indianapolis, the home of the Pittsburgh Pirates Triple-A minor league affiliate, the Indianapolis Indians.
Many of the Raider baseball players have been to the state finals already as 14 of them were also members of the Class 2A football championship team from the fall. The experience the athletes have will more than likely have a big factor in the championship game.
“I think I might be the most nervous one there because they’ve all done this before,” Mattingly said with a laugh. “These guys have been in so many do-or-die pressure situations and they don’t blink when some other people do, it’s hard to explain it.”
Schank, who will be participating in a state final for the third time this season, says there’s nothing quite like the feeling you get what participating in the championship game.
“The IHSAA does a fantastic job of putting on these great events no matter what sport it is by playing in professional venues, you just have to be thankful as a player,” Schank said. “It feels really nice once you’re there but nothing feels better than getting that win.”
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