Highlanders fall short in semi-final against Wildcats
By Brandon Miniard, Contributing Writer
After capturing its first sectional title since 2015 on Memorial Day, Floyd Central’s next task saw the Highlanders march to Jasper for the Indiana High School Athletic Association Class 4A Baseball Regional 4. There, the Highlanders watched as the tournament opened with No. 3 Center Grove scraping by No. 2 Columbus North 3-1. Even as the tight contest came to a close, the No. 11 Highlanders knew they faced a similarly tough task in the form of the host and 12th-ranked Wildcats.
The first two frames saw Highlanders’ senior right-hander Casey Sorg duel against Wildcats’ righty Grant Stratton, with each allowing only one base runner. Sorg ran into trouble in the third when he allowed a one-out single to Caleb Burger, followed by walking Kody Morton. After an Eli Hopf sacrifice bunt, Connor Foley ripped a line-drive down the left-field line to give the Wildcats a 2-0 edge.
After the two-run third, the Highlanders found it difficult to answer against Stratton, who allowed only four base runners during the following three frames to give him six shut-out innings.
Stratton’s dominance and the Wildcats’ slim 2-0 lead was put in jeopardy in the top of the seventh when Max Tripure reached on a one-out single before advancing to second on a Morton fielding error. Bailey Taylor followed with a ground ball that was misplayed by Wildcats’ shortstop Ben Henke, allowing Tripure to score and cut the Wildcats’ advantage to 2-1.
That lone run was all the Highlanders could muster as Foley came on in relief, forcing Jake Thompson to ground out to second to secure a 2-1 conclusion, giving the Wildcats their first-ever regional title at Class 4A. While the Highlanders’ excellent season ended at 22-8, the Wildcats (29-2) followed their win by defeating Center Grove 7-4 to win the regional and will maintain home-field advantage when they host Mount Vernon for a semi-state contest. The Marauders made it to semi-state after knocking off Class 4A No. 7 Indianapolis Cathedral 6-3.