ELKHART — Northridge repeatedly got into and out of trouble and blanked No. 5-ranked Penn to win a sectional baseball championship.
In an emotionally-charged IHSAA Class 4A Elkhart Sectional title game, the Raiders (22-7) earned a 2-0 victory the Kingsmen (24-6) Monday at Elkhart Memorial’s Charger Field.
Penn stranded runners at third base in the first, second, fourth and sixth innings against Northridge starting pitcher Davis Enfield.
The junior right-hander mixed his slider and fastball for 6 2/3 innings and gave up two hits with 12 strikeouts and six walks over 122 pitches.
“My coaches told me to pitch to contact,” said Enfield. “As long as I do my job that let them play, we’re going to have fun and we’re going to win.”
Enfield said he used his slider to put hitters away.
“It’s more of a strikeout pitch — if anything,” said Enfield . “(Penn’s) a very good team. I’m just happy that I had my stuff today.
“That first inning cost me to finish it out.”
By the pitch count rule, Enfield had to come off the mound after finishing pitching to the batter when he hit the limit. He did throw one pitch to the next hitter before junior righty Cam Knepp took the hill following a discussion by the umpires and coaches.
“I’m completely confused,” said Northridge coach Andrew Brabender about the pitch-count confusion. “That’s my fault. I though he could throw 120 plus (finish the batter).”
Brabender did not want to comment about what that means for the next stage.
Knepp fanned the only batter he faced — junior C.J. Kavadas — to earn the save and seal the triumph that sends the Raiders to the LaPorte Regional Saturday.
The first game at Schreiber Field pits Munster Sectional champion Lake Central (23-6) against Crown Point Sectional winner Crown Point (28-4) at 11 a.m., followed by Plymouth Sectional title-taker Mishawaka (23-6) against Northridge (The Raiders swept a doubleheader from the Cavemen, 5-3 and 10-8 in eight innings on May 18). The regional final is slated for 8 p.m.
The sectional title is the seventh in Northridge history — the first since 2015. Penn’s sectional championship streak was ended at five.
With the same two starters going back on March 27, Penn was a 7-5 winner. Monday’s game was a true pitchers’ duel. Kingsmen junior left-hander Ryan Lynch took a no-hitter into the fifth inning and yielded two hits while whiffing 10 and walking four over 107 pitches.
The Raiders got an infield hit from senior Logan Pratt in the middle of two strikeouts and a fly-out in a scoreless bottom of the sixth.
A double play with the bases loaded and one out got Northridge out of trouble in the Kingsmen sixth.
Junior Camryn Szynski was hit by a pitch, senior Kameron Koch walked with one out and Lynch was walked intentionally before Enfield fielded a come-backer off the bat of senior Brendon Denaway and covered it into a double play — pitcher to junior catcher Hayden Nickell to junior first baseman Nick Logan.
“He’s one of our best infielders, too,” said Brabender of Enfield. “It’s nice to have that guy on the mound and he can field his position the way he does.”
A suicide squeeze bunt allowed Northridge to score one run and take a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the fifth. Sophomore Jamon Christner walked with one out, moved to third base on junior Drew Gayler’s single to right and scored on a bunt by sophomore Cam Waters before an inning-ending groundout.
“We’ve been bunting a lot in practice,” said Waters. “I’m the most comfortable guy to get called on for that.”
It was the second time during the 2019 season Waters was asked to lay down a suicide squeeze. The first time was against Plymouth.
“The first time I didn’t even put my bat out to do it,” said Waters.
On that occasion, the runner coming from third base was out. Waters said he felt the championship game emotion Monday.
“When they had the bases loaded, I don’t know how we got out of that,” said Waters. “It was nervous the whole game.”
Penn went down in order against Enfield in the top of the fifth with a pop-out, groundout and strikeout.
Logan walked to lead off the Northridge fourth and was left at second base after a fly-out, groundout and strikeout.
Penn left a runner at third base against Enfield during a scoreless fourth. Denaway lashed a two-out single to center. Freshman courtesy runner Zac Hoskins stole second base and moved to third base on a throwing error prior to a threat-ending strikeout.
Northridge left a runner at second base during a score-free fourth. Gayler drew a one-out walk and moved to second base on Waters’
sacrifice bunt. Lynch struck out batters for the first and third outs.
Enfield fanned three Penn batters and walked one in the top of the third.
Lynch struck out three Raider hitters and walked one in the bottom of the second.
The Kingsmen stranded a runner at third base during a scoreless second. Lynch singled to center and freshman courtesy runner Zac David stole second base and moved to third on junior Kyle Kline’s fly-out (a sliding catcher by right fielder Pratt) followed by a strikeout for the third out.
Northridge scored the game’s first run against Lynch without a hit in the bottom of the first. Waters reached first base on a sacrifice bunt and moved to second base on an error on the same play. He advanced to third base on Knepp’s groundout and scored on Lynch’s wild pitch.
“They executed and made the plays,” said Penn coach Greg Dikos. “We made some plays, but made one crucial mistake in that first inning. The guy should’ve been out on a great pick-off. Those are mistakes you can’t make at this level of the tournament.”
Enfield worked out of a base-loaded, no-out jam in the top of the first inning.
“That was a huge momentum swing,” said Brabender. “(Enfield) was a little amped up like most of our kids were. There were a lot of people here and it took awhile to relax and settle down.
“His slider was dirty. It had lots of bite to it.”
After walking Kavadas, senior Brock Boynton and Szynski, Enfield struck out Koch then coaxed an inning-ending double play — senior shortstop Ben Becker to second baseman Christner to first baseman Logan.