By Dennis Glade
Times Herald Columnist
---- — The more things change the more they stay the same. This is an old saying, but it fits perfectly when looking at the area’s baseball teams in 2014. One month into the season, there have been plenty of competitive games, but some teams have already separated themselves from the pack as we head toward the postseason. Vincennes Rivet entered the season as the presumed top team in the area and nothing has changed in that respect.
Entering the season, Washington was expected to go through a rebuilding season that might not be pretty at times. The Hatchets, led by veteran coach Steve Reed, started the season with four straight losses before breaking through against Loogootee. Washington earned a 6-4 win in eight innings at Les Page Field. The win not only put Washington in the win column for the first time in 2014, it seemed to instill some confidence in Reed’s young team.
Following the victory, Washington picked up three more victories against South Knox, White River Valley and Linton. Washington isn’t among the leaders at the plate or on the mound, but true to form, Reed’s group is fighting every time out. Washington stands at 5-7, but the Hatchets could be at 6-5 if not for close losses to Barr-Reeve and Edgewood by a combined three runs.
Unfortunately for the Hatchets, effort will struggle against supremely talented teams like Jasper, who took down Washington 22-4 last week. Washington will likely see the Wildcats in the sectional, a tournament Jasper has won 10 times since 2000.
In Class A, Barr-Reeve, Loogootee and North Daviess continue to beat up on each other. The Lions have been the best of the three historically with their 20 sectional titles since 1967 and more recently with five since 2001. Loogootee let a few games slip through its fingers early in the season, but have now won five in a row with a 9-6 record.
The Lions boast an elite offense and pitching staff as the most likely challenger to defending sectional champion, Vincennes Rivet. First-year coach Luke Woolems has a stable of talented hitters and throws at his disposal, but none better than senior Casey Miller. Miller has hit .453 with three home runs, two triples, seven doubles and 23 RBIs. The Lions met Rivet earlier this season, but came up short in a 8-0 loss. That loss was in a stretch of five losses in seven games. One would have to believe if these two teams face in the sectional later this month, the score would be much closer.
With a 7-4 record, Nathan Lester’s Barr-Reeve team has the pitching to compete with anyone it steps on the field with. The Vikings have two pitchers with ERA’s under two with Lucas Graber (0.39) and Adam Graber (1.75). Graber also leads the team with four home runs. The Vikings lost Friday to Rivet at Barr-Reeve, 13-5, as the Patriots slugged four home runs off of Graber and sophomore Logan James. While some of Viking hitters haven’t hit their stride, Lester’s pitching staff has the potential to bring the first sectional title back to Montgomery since 2010 and the third since 2000.
The often over looked North Daviess Cougars are flying under the radar with a 6-6 record, but Loogootee and Barr-Reeve would be wise to pay attention to Zach Stoll’s young team. North Daviess came up short by a combined four runs in the last two sectional tournament’s against the Lions and Vikings. Led by senior Alex Wittmer, who is hitting .364 with a 3.64 ERA and one victory and one save, the Cougars will be a tough out for anyone.
As the defending sectional champion and 2013’s Class A state runner-up, Rivet is the favorite with three weeks before the sectional draw.
The Patriots have beaten Barr-Reeve and Loogootee by a combined 21-5 score. There are plenty of games to be played before now and the end of the regular season, but one thing we can be assured of is that nothing is guaranteed in the postseason.