LOOGOOTEE — Loogootee saw its chance to repeat as sectional champions end in dramatic fashion as Vincennes Rivet claimed the opening game of Sectional 63 with a 5-4, nine-inning win at Les Page Field on Wednesday.
Trailing 5-3 entering the bottom of the ninth, Loogootee (18-9) scored one run against Rivet reliever Colin Wirth and looked poised to tie the game on a one-out fly ball to right fielder Jackson Niehaus off the bat of Branden Wilz with Casey Miller on third.
But Niehaus made a strong throw to first baseman Zach Templin, and Templin’s relay throw to catcher Gavin Benock cut down Miller at the plate for a 9-3-2 double play to end the game.
According to Loogootee coach Roger Bailey, the Lions made too many mistakes to win the game, including four errors - two of which helped dig the Lions a quick 3-0 hole in the first inning. But the Loogootee coach was proud of how his team battled back after the rough start.
“I said ‘The defense sets the tone.’ We came right out and make three errors in two innings. You can’t win championships playing that kind of ball,” said Bailey. “But I just love the effort my guys give. They never quit battling, they never stop. That’s what makes me the proudest as a coach.”
Unlike Loogootee when the Lions had a chance to win the game in the bottom of the seventh, Rivet (14-12) took advantage of a bases loaded, no out situation in the ninth. Tanner Thomas, who was 0-3 against Lion starter Matt Mathies, singled to center against reliever Jesse Horney, scoring Wirth and Peyton Cummings to break the 3-3 tie that had existed since the fourth inning.
The Lions threatened to end the game in the bottom of the seventh, loading the bases with no outs against Allen. But the Rivet junior bounced back to hold LHS at bay and force the game to extra innings, thanks in no small part to a fine play by third baseman Thomas, whose fine stop and throw to home plate cut down Mathies for the first out of the inning.