There aren’t many ways to improve on a complete-game pitching victory in a sectional quarterfinal game.
Unless, of course, you’re also the guy who drives in the winning run in the bottom of the seventh inning.
West Noble junior hurler Nick Noe was that guy for the Chargers Wednesday night as West Noble rallied to defeat Wawasee, 4-3 and advance to the Class 3A Wawasee Sectional semifinals on Monday.
Noe has spent much of the season battling his way back from a stress fracture in his right (pitching) arm that he injured during basketball season. Of late, he has been on a pitch count as he works back into shape.
But with the Chargers needing a sectional victory, Charger coach Doug Brown said Noe wanted to be the guy to deliver it.
“He said, ‘I want the ball,’” Brown said.
And when he got it, Noe pitched the Chargers into the sectional semifinals.
The Chargers (5-21) got on the board first with a run in the bottom of the second.
Wawasee, behind senior pitcher Joe Fleague, took advantage of a costly West Noble error to take a 3-1 lead in the top of the fourth. With one out, Gabe Rhodes singled, and Donovan Navarro drew a walk. An Isaac Rigdon groundout moved the runners to second and third, and then Joe Bohnstedt was hit by a pitch to load the bases. Si Shear hit a single that was misplayed in the West Noble outfield, allowing all three runs to score.
But that was the extent of the Wawasee offense on this warm late-spring evening.
West Noble chipped away with a run in the bottom of the fifth and tied it in the bottom of the sixth.
After the Chargers held the Warriors in the top of the seventh, the stage was set for a special finish.
With one out, Levi Nelson singled, and with two outs, Noe found the sweet spot on a new BBCOR bat with a two-strike fastball, and Nelson was able to race around to cross the plate with the winning run.
“I knew it was going to be a fastball,” Noe said. “I was able to get the good part of the bat on it, It’s pretty cool to drive in the winning run like that.”
Noe said after battling through limited pitch counts the past few games, he was ready to air things out a bit. And he did that in a big way, throwing nearly 100 pitches.
Noe went 3-for-4 at the plate to go with his pitching heroics.
Shear led the Warriors, going 2-for-4 with an RBI.
Wawasee coach John Blunk said the Chargers deserved to win. “We didn’t play well enough to win, and they did,” Blunk said.
Wawasee committed five errors on the afternoon.
The Warriors will say goodbye to five seniors: Andrew Hepler; John Beer; Shear; Fleagle; and Bohnstedt.
Despite the losses — especially that of Shear, who Blunk described as the “heart and soul” of the Wawasee baseball program — the future is bright for the Warriors, according to their coach.
“The program will go where the new coach takes it,” Blunk said. He said he will not be returning as coach next season.
The Warriors finished 7-19.
West Noble faces the winner of tonight’s game between Fairfield and Tippecanoe Valley Monday morning at 9 a.m.
West Noble 4, Wawasee 3
Wawasee 000 300 0 — 3-5-5
West Noble 010 011 1 — 4-11-3
Pitching: (Wawasee) Joe Fleagle, John Beer (L). (West Noble) Nick Noe (W).
Hitting: (Wawasee) Si Shear 2-for-4, 2 RBIs. (West Noble) Noe 3-for-4, game-winning RBI in bottom of 7th; Kory Kendall 2-for-4.