By STU SWARTZ
SPECIAL TO THE GOSHEN NEWS
Northridge and Elkhart Central notching victories was not surprising.
The favorites, however, were both seriously challenged in the opening round of a Class 4A high school baseball sectional Friday night at Memorial’s Charger Field.
Senior Brock Logan’s one-out RBI single in the top of the eighth inning enabled Northridge to escape an upset bid by Goshen, 4-3, in the nightcap.
Goshen thought it had won the game in the bottom of the seventh, but a disputed call at second base went the Raiders’ way and the game continued.
Central senior left hander Tanner Tully, headed to Ohio State, hurled a four-hitter and struck out 14 in the opener as the Blue Blazers blanked the Concord Minutemen 3-0.
That puts 26-1 Central and 25-3 Northridge in the first semifinal game at 11 a.m. today, followed at about 1:30 p.m. by Memorial and Warsaw.
The championship game is slated for noon on Monday, Memorial Day. The winner advances to a four-team regional at LaPorte on June 7.
Goshen finishes the season at 11-17 and Concord 18-7.
GHS coach Hal Farmwald went with senior right hander Jake Jesse, normally a relief specialist, as his starting pitcher against the heavy-hitting Raiders.
The strategy worked as Jesse shut out Northridge over the first four innings while his teammates were staking him to a 2-0 lead.
Junior Jorge Pizana had a sacrifice fly for the Redskins in the second inning while senior Luke Harris walked and scored on an error in the fourth.
The Raiders tied it in the fifth on a two-out, two-run single by senior Arick Doberenz. They went ahead, 3-2, in the top of the sixth on a two-out RBI single by senior Alan Grusy.
Goshen tied it in the bottom of the seventh, loading the bases on a double by senior Tyler Slagel and walks to junior Deric Haynes and senior Sylas Buller.
Haynes scored the tying run on a force-out grounder by senior Travis Pickard.
A grounder by Harris was then fumbled, but a force out on the disputed play at second ended the inning.
Senior Shannon Baker was hit by a pitch and senior Blake Fry sacrificed for NHS in the top of the eighth ahead of Logan’s clutch hit.
Raider sophomore left fielder Sam Troyer made a diving catch on a ball headed for a double by Goshen senior Austin Henke in the bottom of the eighth.
Fry, in his second inning of relief, then struck out the last two batters.
Senior Austin Moniot pitched into the seventh inning for Northridge before Fry took over. Jesse went six for Goshen and was relieved by Pizana.
“People don’t realize how difficult it is to play a rival three times,” said Raider coach Andrew Brabender. “Goshen has improved a great deal over the season and gave us their best shot.
“Our kids have been behind in other games this year and found ways to win. Our seniors really came through in this one, especially with the two-out hits.”
Farmwald commented, “Nobody thought we could come in here and win this game, but I feel like we outplayed a great Northridge team all night long. The breaks went against us in the end and I just feel sick for our seniors.
“We got the lead, gave it up and then battled back. I’m just so proud of how our kids battled and Jesse was outstanding on the mound. They hit very few balls hard off him.”
Central has 20 baserunners in the opener, yet netted only three runs. Both Tully and senior Mike Namisnak had RBI singles in the second inning and senior Austin McArt scored on an error after he singled in the fifth.
Junior Nick DeFreese had two singles, senior Cain Crowley and Taylor Miller both one for Concord off the deliveries of Tully. The Minutemen had the bases loaded in both the fourth and seventh innings, but came up empty.
“Our kids battled, but we just couldn’t get the big hit off Tully,” said Concord coach Jim Treadway.
“We got great plays from (senior) Connor Slabach in right field and DeFreese at third.”
Blazer skipper Steve Stutsman said, “We had some first-game jitters and lacked some clutch hits to break it open but, with Tully on the mound, we are capable of winning with just a couple runs.
“This team comes into the sectional with a lot of expectations and I think we will be fine now that we have gotten past this first game. We do need to clean up some things, though.”