KOKOMO – A day after being drafted by the San Diego Padres in the fifth round, Norwell senior Josh VanMeter was right where he wanted to be: On the mound, with victory in his grasp as he and his teammates led Western with two outs in the bottom of the seventh inning.
Westerns Dakota LaMott hit a comebacker to VanMeter that the pitcher fielded cleanly and threw to first to finish Norwells 5-2 victory in the Class 3A Kokomo Semistate.
The Knights (32-3) advanced to play Jasper (32-3) in the state finals next week at Indianapolis Victory Field.
VanMeter said getting the final out was amazing, not as good as (getting drafted), but it felt pretty good. To do that next week would be even better, but for the ball to be in my hands to get the last out was perfect.
Western (23-6) got off to an ideal start with a pair of runs in the bottom of the first, but that was all VanMeter gave up, and No. 3 Norwell steadily took control.
Western, for every year that Ive played them, that my buddies have played them at Zionsville, they like to get off to a good start, said Norwell coach Andy McClain, the coach at Brebeuf last season when Western beat the Braves for the state title. They got those two runs and we said, OK, thats it. Our kids are mentally tough, battle tested. After 35 ballgames already this year, they can handle adversity, they can handle pressure. They got theirs, and we were patient and got ours.
Norwell scored a run in the top of the third when VanMeter, Nathan Shelton and Tailur Szarenski connected on three straight singles.
The Knights took the lead in the top of the fourth with two runs. Austin Dettmer started the rally with a walk. A single by pinch-hitter Reggie Hayes followed, and then Austin Dantzer and pinch-hitter Jake Meyer connected with run-scoring singles for a 3-2 lead.
The Knights tacked on a run in the fifth when Szarenski, who had doubled, came home on a Dettmer single. Norwell closed the scoring in the seventh when VanMeter singled, moved up on a Shelton sacrifice and scored on a double from Szarenski. Szarenski finished 4 for 4 with three doubles and a single.
They can hurt you one through nine, Western coach Ty Calloway said of the Knights, who got 12 hits from seven different hitters.
Theres not a weakness in their lineup. Itll take an awful good team to beat them. Theyve got a great shot (at winning state). Anybody that hits the ball better than they do, Id like to see them.
VanMeter threw a complete game with 12 strikeouts. He gave up four hits after the first inning.
With all due respect to everybody in the state of Indiana, were not just happy to be going, McClain said. Weve still got one more game, one more job to do.