SYRACUSE — It'll be a battle of two of the best pitchers in the area to decide the Class 3A, Sectional 21 baseball championship.
Both Angola (16-8) and NorthWood (17-7) advanced in semifinal play Saturday, giving us a projected pitching matchup of the Hornets' Aaron Chao against the Panthers' Alec Holcomb. Chao is committed to Eastern Illinois University, while Holcomb is heading to Taylor University in the fall.
The Hornets and Panthers will face off Monday at 11 a.m. at Wawasee High School.
"If you're not doing anything, come. It's going to be phenomenal. It's one of those rare occasions where you're going to have two great pitchers on the mound," NorthWood coach AJ Risedorph said.
It was NorthWood's other starting pitcher that created some buzz in the semifinal on Saturday, however.
NorthWood 8, Tippecanoe Valley 1
Matt Dutkowski has never pitched a no-hitter. He had one going with two innings to go against Tippecanoe Valley.
The senior allowed just one walk and a hit-by-pitch — both in the third inning — through the first five frames against the Vikings. By the time Dutkowski lost the no-hitter with one out in the top of the sixth, NorthWood held a commanding 7-0 lead.
Tippecanoe Valley managed just two hits against Dutkowski.
"I mean, obviously, I knew. But, (Tippecanoe Valley) hit the ball hard those two hits. I knew it was bound to happen eventually, but I was glad I was able to contain them to two," Dutkowski said.
"Honestly, I didn't even know he was doing that well because, from our angle in what we see in Dutkowski, he almost looked sharper most of the other days," Risedorph added. "Today, he had a great ability to make adjustments pitch-by-pitch."
Dutkowski worked the edges of the plate throughout the game, recording 10 strikeouts. He struck out the side in both the fourth and seventh innings.
"The ump's zone was consistent all game, and he was giving me a ball or two off the plate," Dutkowski said. "So, I started using his zone more ... I'm just up there throwing strikes, trying to do whatever I can to help the team win."
Dutkowski had plenty of run support, as the Panthers tallied runs in the second, third, fourth and fifth innings. NorthWood picked up its first two runs in the second inning on a fielding error from the Vikings, allowing Trey Allman and Holcomb to score. A Jack Wysong RBI double two batters later made it 3-0 Panthers.
NorthWood scored three runs on sacrifice flies, as Cooper Davis, Jaden Miller and Kyle Sellers all drove in runs via a fly outs.
"You'll see that we'll sac bunt ... we have to be able to move the runners over and put ourselves in a situation to get a guy on third to do that," Risedorph said. "Our guys are more than willing to do those little things for the betterment of the team."
The Panthers now get to face Chao, who struck out 17 batters in Angola's sectional-opening win against Lakeland Wednesday. Chao has also hit two home runs in the sectional and is batting .485 on the season.
"We're not going to change a thing. We're going to continue to do what we've done all year," Risedorph said. "I think when the hits come, it's going to be the defense to make those simple plays and not allow a mistake."
Angola 9, Wawasee 8
The first game of the day Saturday was a wild affair as the Hornets knocked off the host Warriors in walk-off fashion.
With the bases loaded in an 8-8 game in the bottom of the eighth, Angola senior Jake Hilyard laid down a perfect suicide squeeze, allowing Ryan Brandt to sprint home and score the game-winning run.
"(Brandt) runs a 4.5 (40-yard dash), and (Hilyard) is one of our better bunters. So, it kind of fell right into place right there," Angola coach Roger Roddy said.
The Hornets scored two runs in the bottom of the seventh to steal the victory from Wawasee. The Warriors left 10 runners on base in the game, including the bases loaded in the top half of the seventh. Wawasee was the designated road team despite playing on their home field.
"You really feel comfortable with two or three or four runs there. I mean, that's a momentum swinger. Could be a very different outcome," Wawasee coach Brent Doty said. "Credit (Angola). They made pitches and got us out."
Wawasee built its lead with a chaotic fourth and fifth innings. After trailing 1-0 entering the fourth, the Warriors scored three times to go up 3-1. RBI hits from Levi Brown and Grant Brooks helped Wawasee take the advantage.
Angola responded with five runs in the bottom half of the fourth, however, in large part due the three-RBI triple from Jarrett Gibson. This made it 6-3 Angola after four innings.
Wawasee countered with their own five-run inning in the fifth, though, to re-take the lead.Carter Woody hit a two-run home run to tie the game at six. Austin Baker then had an RBI single, driving in Brown to give the Warriors the lead. With runners at first and third, Baker went to go steal second. This allowed Brooks to head for home, who slid in safely under the tag to give Wawasee an 8-6 lead.
The Warriors created chaos all game, scoring two runs off steals like the one Brooks had. They also recorded five bunt singles in the game.
"When sectionals come, its the second season. Everyone is 0-0 and you have to try everything you can to win," Doty said. "Whether that takes all 18 guys we have or we have to bunt every inning. We're just trying to get a 'W' and move on to the next day."
Chao hit a home run in the bottom of the fifth, making it an 8-7 game and setting up the seventh-inning heroics from Hilyard.
Wawasee finishes with a 14-11 record.
Austin Hough can be reached at email@example.com or 574-533-2151, ext. 325. Follow Austin on Twitter @AustinHoughTGN