LOOGOOTEE — A heart-to-heart talk in the Barr-Reeve dugout may have made the difference in the Class A baseball semifinal between Barr-Reeve and North Daviess Monday.
Stan Kemp drove home the ninth-inning game-winner for the Vikings in a 3-2 decision against North Daviess in the opening game of the sectional semifinal round Monday.
But it was a discussion between Barr-Reeve coach Nathan Lester and Viking starter Brandon Wagler after the fifth inning that set the stage for the final.
The Cougars had tied the game in the bottom of the fifth at two, and Wagler appeared to be a bit on the ropes after blanking the Cougars in the first three innings.
Wagler issued four walks in two innings to go with four Cougar hits as North Daviess tied the game at two.
Lester was thinking about pulling his ace before the two spoke in the first-base dugout as the game headed into the sixth.
“I was actually thinking of pulling him after that inning,” Lester said. “Not because I was wanting to save him for the second game, but because I was thinking he was losing his stuff. He had command problems in the fourth and fifth. After talking to him I decided to leave him in.”
Wagler found his stuff again and the Vikings were able to defeat North Daviess in a classic semifinal round opener.
Kemp drove in the game-winning run with a single in the top of the ninth inning to break the two- all tie that had remained in place since the fifth.
“We had to have Stan in the lineup as the designated hitter,” Lester said. “He’s hitting over .350 for the season. It was nice to have him step up when we really needed him.”
As Barr-Reeve advanced to the sectional final, North Daviess turned in possibly its best performance of the season.
Cougar starter Alex Wittmer gave up a run in the top of the third inning on two infield singles sandwiched around a sacrifice bunt and a wild pitch.
The Vikings scored their second run in the fourth as Kemp drove home Logan James who had also earlier reached with a single.
But that was all the Vikings would get until the ninth as Wittmer matched Wagler inning-to-inning.
It was the Cougars who appeared ready to take the lead through the fifth.
North Daviess left the bases loaded in the fourth before stranding two runners in the fifth.
Barr-Reeve rightfielder Addison Wagler kept the tie at two as he charged and dove for a ball off the bat of Nathaniel Gingerich with one out and the bases loaded.
After the catch, the Vikings almost caught Scott Woodruff off the bag at first, but the throw to firstbaseman Heath Graber just missed Woodruff allowing Darin Raber to tie the score.
Stoll had his own thoughts about removing his ace before the ninth started, but stayed with his starter who had gotten him through the first eight innings.
“I asked him (Wittmer) how he felt, and he said he felt as though he had something left,” Stoll said. “I thought he had earned the chance to stay in the game and have the opportunity to win after the game he had pitched. He kept us in the game, and he gave us the chance to win. He gave us a great performance.”
Wittmer walked Myron Stoll to open the inning, and the North Daviess coach visited the mound.
“He said he thought he still had something left, so we left in.”
But when the first pitch to Kemp sailed behind him on an attempted sacrifice, Stoll brought in Tommy Newby with a 1-0 count.
Stoll advanced to second on the inside offering, and Kemp lined a 2-1 pitch into right-center field to being home the winner.
That was the lone pitch that was up in the inning, as Newby retired the next three hitters in order.
“My feeling was that we had to win the first game to get to the championship game, and I knew that Brandon was capable,” Lester said. “Take your hat off to Wittmer. I knew that North Daviess had been playing better baseball at the end of the season, and they have a lot of confidence when he is on the mound. With him on the mound, they are very capable. It’s always nice to win any game, but when you can win one like we did, you feel confident about the next game. We’re going to give our best effort and see what happens.”
Barr-Reeve 001 100 001 - 3 9 1
North Daviess 000 110 000 - 2 5 0
Brandon Wagler and Lucas Graber. Alex Wittmer, Tommy Newby (9) and Jordan Wagler. W-Wagler. L-Wittmer.