CLAYTON — For the second time this year, a Parke Heritage High School athletic team has eliminated a local high school team from the IHSAA tournament.
Saturday in the first semifinal game of the Class 2A baseball regional at Cascade High School, the Wolves utilized two big-scoring innings to obtain enough runs to defeat Knightstown 12-5 and end the Panthers’ season.
“Give credit to Parke Heritage,” Knightstown Head Coach Robbie Miller remarked afterward. “They’re a good ball club. But it seemed like every break went their way today. Our kids never quit, and I’m very proud of them for that.”
Knightstown ended the 2021 campaign with a 15-13 record while Parke Heritage improved to 16-10 and moved on to face No. 8 University, a 12-5 victor over No. 6 Centerville in the second semifinal game, in Saturday night’s championship contest.
The Trailblazers upended the Wolves 8-2 in the title game to advance to this Saturday’s Class 2A southern semi-state championship game against Providence in Mooresville.
Cascade High School has a very nice turf baseball field, very similar to Tri’s softball field but on a larger scale. The game was played under very warm and sometimes breezy conditions.
The Panthers missed a golden opportunity to score in the top of the first inning off Parke Heritage senior pitcher Connor Davis, the starting center on the Wolves’ boys basketball team that “upset” Shenandoah in the Regional 11 championship game in March.
Leading off the top of the first, Knightstown freshman catcher Gunnar Hannis singled to left field, moved to second base on a sacrifice bunt by Aaron Reagan, and Ben Newby walked on a full-count pitch.
Mason Muncy stepped to the plate and singled to right field to load the bases with just one away. But Davis bore down, struck out the next two batters on five pitches apiece, and the Panthers left the bags juiced.
Muncy, a senior, started on the hill for Knightstown and Parke Heritage also let a scoring opportunity slip away in the bottom of the first inning.
Muncy plunked leadoff batter Clayton Shaffer with a pitch, but Shaffer was forced out at second base on Quinton Hanks’ fielder’s choice grounder. The next batter popped up to the second baseman for the second out.
Muncy walked Noble Johnson on five pitches, moving Hanks into scoring position. But the next batter flew out to left centerfield to end the inning, stranding the two runners.
With two outs in the top of the second inning, freshman Brock Loveall doubled to right field. But Davis induced the next batter to ground out 4-3 to end the half-inning.
Muncy retired the Wolves 1-2-3 in the last of the second on a 6-3 groundout followed by two strikeouts.
Leading off the top of the third inning, Reagan got plunked by a 0-2 Davis pitch. But the umpire ruled Reagan didn’t make enough effort to get out of the way, so it was called just a “ball.”
Reagan fanned on a called third strike, and Davis got the next two batters out via 4-3 groundout and strikeout.
Parke Heritage finally broke into the scoring column with five runs in the bottom of the third. Leading off, Riley Ferguson reached base on an error before the next batter whiffed on three pitches.
But with one away, Ferguson got all the way to third base on Hanks’ infield hit and Ferguson scored and Hanks moved to second on Christian Johnson’s single to centerfield.
Noble Johnson stepped to the plate and hit a ground-rule double to left field that plated Hanks and moved Christian Johnson to third base. Davis’ single to left field drove in Christian Johnson, with Noble Johnson stopping at third. Davis stole second base.
Kyle Harpold’s single to centerfield plated Noble Johnson and moved Davis to third. Davis scored on Josh Heck’s sacrifice fly to left field for a 5-0 Wolves advantage.
Dakota Vance followed with an infield hit that moved Harpold to second base. But Vance was forced out at second on Ferguson’s fielder’s choice grounder to finally end the inning.
Davis retired the Panthers 1-2-3 in the top of the fourth inning.
Parke Heritage came back with a six-spot in the last of the fourth inning. Leading off, Shaffer singled to left field, and Hanks’ triple to right centerfield drove Shaffer across the plate for a 6-0 Wolves lead.
Newby came to the mound to relieve Muncy and induced the first batter he faced to ground out 1-3 with Hanks holding at third. But Noble Johnson’s single to left centerfield plated Hanks, Davis’ single to right field moved Noble Johnson to third base, and Harpold walked on five pitches to fill the sacks.
Heck’s infield hit drove in Noble Johnson, and Vance’s fielder’s choice grounder forced Heck out at second base, but Davis scored on the play for a 9-0 advantage. Ferguson then belted a two-out double to left centerfield, driving in Harpold and Vance to boost the Parke Heritage lead to 11-0.
Sophomore Dalton Scott came in to pitch for Knightstown and induced the next batter to fly out to right field to finally end the inning.
When Davis retired the first two batters in the top of the fifth inning, the Panthers were just one out from being run-ruled. But Hannis singled on a 2-1 pitch and Reagan walked on four pitches, and the Wolves replaced Davis on the mound with senior Joey Bouffard.
Bouffard walked Newby on five pitches to fill the bases. Muncy then battled back from a 1-2 pitch, hit four foul balls with the count 2-2, and took a pitch for a ball before finally singling to right field on the 10th pitch to him, driving in Hannis and Reagan.
Muncy hustled to second base on the throw-in, and as Muncy beat the throw to second, Newby hustled across the plate from third base to trim the Wolves’ lead to 11-3.
Muncy moved to third base on a wild pitch and scored on Bouffard’s balk, pulling Knightstown back to within 11-4. The next batter flew out to deep right field to retire the side.
“That inning was a testament to the character of our kids,” Miller said. “Down to a final strike, they refused to give up, scored four runs, and made the game go the distance.”
Parke Heritage got one of those runs back in the bottom of the fifth. Leading off, Hanks walked on a 3-2 pitch and scored on Christian Johnson’s double to centerfield to increase the Wolves’ advantage to 12-4.
Scott induced the next batter to fly out to right field before walking Davis on five pitches. But Scott closed the door on further scoring by fanning the next two batters to end the inning.
The Panthers scored their final run in the top of the sixth inning. With one out, Carson Smith singled to centerfield, moved to second base on Robert Porter’s 1-3 groundout, and scored on Loveall’s two-out double down the right field to pull Knightstown back to within 12-5.
The next batter grounded out 6-3 to end the half-inning.
In the last of the sixth, Scott walked leadoff batter Vance on five pitches, and freshman Bryce Gorman came in to pitch for the Panthers.
Vance moved to second base on Bouffard’s sacrifice bunt, but the Wolves didn’t score as Gorman retired the next two batters on groundouts.
With two outs in their final at-bat in the top pf the seventh inning, Muncy singled to centerfield and Robbie Flodder came in to run for him. Flodder took second and third bases uncontested and Brayden McDaniel walked on six pitches and went to second base unchallenged.
But Bouffard bore down and fanned the next batter on a called third strike, ending the game at 1:28 p.m. after 2:25 of playing time had elapsed.
Knightstown bids goodbye to seniors Reagan, Newby, Muncy, Porter, Flodder, and Brock Corbett.
“We’ll really miss our seniors, who have led us all season,” Miller added. “But our young kids played really well today and got a taste of what this is like, which I think will make them hungry for more. We’ll rebuild and hopefully return to this level and beyond next year.”