Experience wins out: Washington Township rallies in seventh to top South Central in PCC championship
BY CJ PETERS
WASHINGTON TWP. – For Washington Township coach Randy Roberts, the difference in Friday’s game came down to his team’s mindset.
Trailing by a run going into its final at-bat, the Senators – who start seven seniors – showed what experience can mean in the important parts of the season.
With its senior class’ fingerprints all over the seventh inning comeback, host Washington Twp picked up a 5-3 win over South Central in the championship game of the Porter County Conference Tournament.
It is the team’s first tourney title since 2014.
“We’ve got an experienced team of seniors and that’s what they do,” Roberts said. “South Central is very good, they got a lot of young kids, We did what experienced veterans should do.
“I don’t think any of them had any other thought than that we were going to tie that game up in that inning and that’s what you gotta have. I think that was probably the difference and turned out to be the difference, our kids believed they’d come back.”
Senior Layne Matson, who scored on a throwing error to tie the game, led off the seventh inning with a walk from Todd Snyder, who turned in six innings of four-hit ball for South Central before Brad Ferrell came on in relief.
“Todd’s a fierce competitor, kind of has that ‘it’ factor,” South Central coach Zach Coulter said. “He’s not going to overpower anyone, but he’s gonna outsmart you a lot of the time. He was hitting spots well and doing just a good enough job of keeping hitters off-balance.
“He was highly effective and that’s why we went to a senior in this type of game, somebody that has a few more stripes on the sleeve than maybe a freshman.”
Three of the next four Senators proceeded to reach with senior Steven Hernandez delivering a two-strike, go-ahead single, scoring Tommy Landry. Sophomore James Kirk, who was 2-for-4, provided the insurance as his single brought in James Hernandez after his bunt contributed to the throwing error.
“These seniors as freshmen, they were lucky to get five games in because they had a bunch rained out and it was a senior-laden group that was three- and four-year starters,” Roberts said. “Sophomore year, they barely got five in on JV and saw seniors go to the state championship and then they lost all of last year.
“They’ve worked a lot and have grown a lot and now they have something to show for it.”
Coulter, who has a starting lineup that has just two seniors but four juniors and three freshmen, said his team had nothing to hang their heads about.
“The message after was that I was proud of the guys, I felt like we outplayed them for six innings, but I told them we gotta outplay them for seven,” Coulter said. “We gotta complete a game. We call it 42 outs – 21 for us, 21 for them – you got to get all 42.
“Four of their runs were from a walk, so it’s just cleaning up a few things, especially against a team that starts seven seniors because you know they’re going to be experienced, while we have a team with a lot of freshmen in the mix – a ‘veteran, young’ team I call it. They’re maturing well beyond their years.”
Another senior, Logan Curran, turned in four shutout innings in relief for starter James Hernandez, who Roberts said begged him to start Friday’s game. All three South Central runs came in the third with a two-run double from Ferrell and a single from Brice Glisic.
“James has been sick for a little while,” Roberts said. “And I honestly didn’t want to start him but he kept begging and begging and anyone that wants to pitch that bad, we’ll give it to him. There was a dribbler to first then they scored three after what should have been the third out, but that’s alright.
“It makes it more satisfying when you come back. In the moment, you want everything to be easy, but long-term, it’s much more gratifying when you gotta fight and claw to win and that’s what we did.”
Curran, who gave up only two hits and struck out four, faced no more than four batters in each of his innings. He induced a Snyder fly out for the final out.
“He’s our best location guy, he can pretty much pitch it where he wants,” Roberts said. “His nerves got the best of him in the seventh when he went down 3-0, but he came back and struck that guy out. He then went 3-0 and walked the next guy and then that makes us face a very difficult hitter in Snyder.
“Snyder is nobody you wanna see up at bat in that situation because he’ll do anything to put the bat on the ball. He’s a pesky kid, a coach’s dream-type for sure.”
Curran, a right-hander, focused on getting ahead in the count.
“I gotta get ahead because I know if I get behind, then I start to overthink and I just get too caught up in the game,” Curran said. “I had some off-speed working this time and that helped, for sure. My fastball, I actually had location with it and then they couldn’t touch my curveball.
“Everything was feeling good.”
In addition to the tourney title, the Senators were also 7-0 in the PCC round-robin.
“It feels great, especially with the season taken away from us last year,” Curran said. “This year, we’re doing exactly what we said we were gonna do, but there’s still more to do. We’re definitely playing better, but there’s a lot to improve on still.
“We gotta keep on practicing and keep on getting with it.”
Ferrell reached base all three times going 2-for-2 with a run to pace South Central. He and Brice Glisic hit back-to-back pitches off the wall in the three-run third.
Coulter is hoping to turn Friday’s loss into a learning experience.
“I want them to internalize this feeling and remember it,” Coulter said. “(Washington Twp.) is a potential regional opponent. We’re gonna get another crack at them if both of us play as anticipated.
“This is a game we don’t win or lose, but we learn, and that’s the biggest thing. We learned that we can compete with this team and there’s no reason come regional time, if we’re both still in the tournament, that it’s not a game we can’t have all the confidence in the world that we can win.”