INDIANAPOLIS – The Eastside Blazers had plenty of spectacular catches, but not nearly enough hits in their first appearance at the state finals, falling to Providence 4-0 Monday at Victory Field.
Eastside (26-7) mustered two hits and had another two batters reach on errors. Only one runner got past first base.
Providence (23-7) scored early as Eastside starting pitcher Owen Willard walked his second batter of the game, third baseman Eli Watson. Watson stole second and then advanced to third on a wild pitch, and then came around to score on a double by shortstop Casey Kaelin that stayed just inside the third-base line to give the Pioneers a 1-0 lead.
Eastside right fielder Caleb Vanover was particularly busy in that first inning: leadoff man Landon Kruer flew out to right, and then the third batter, pitcher Ray Reisinger, hit a fly ball that Vanover eventually settled in under for the second out. Vanover ended the inning when he caught a foul ball from No. 5 hitter Jake Rodski just in front of the seats.
The trend continued into the second inning, during which Vanover made two more clutch catches, one of them as he slid to his knees, for the second and third outs. Five of the first seven balls put in play by the Pioneers were caught by Vanover.
Meanwhile, the Blazers barely made any contact with the ball in the early innings. Reisinger did not allow a single baserunner his first time through the Blazers batting order, and he struck out six in the first three innings.
Providence stretched its lead to 2-0 in the third on a play remarkably similar to its first run: Reisinger reached on a double to right field, and scored on a Kaelin double that once again bounced just inside the third-base line.
Dylan Hertig recorded the first Eastside hit of the night with a two-out single to left in the top of the fourth, but Vanover followed that with a ground out to end any chance of a rally.
Willard escaped another jam in the fourth: He walked Max Beatty and hit Hayden Vissing with a pitch, and the runners advanced to second and third on a double-steal. But the pitcher won a marathon at-bat against Kruer, battling to a full count and then inducing a swinging strike out from the Providence catcher.
Eastside had another close escape in the bottom of the fifth inning, which Providence third baseman Eli Watson led off with a triple to left. But Willard struck out the next two batters and then induced a pop out to strand Watson on third.
Wade Miller gave the Eastside faithful hope in the top of the sixth inning when he reached third on a dropped fly ball by Providence right fielder Rodski with two outs, but the right fielder immediately redeemed himself by catching a fly ball from Hertig to end the inning.
The bottom of the sixth inning also began with a triple, this time by Providence left fielder David Newbanks, but there was no slick escape this time. Newbanks scored and made the score 3-0 on a Beatty double. Grant Borden was hit by a pitch to keep the inning going. Kruer singled, but the Providence celebration was tempered as Beatty was called out at home plate. Borden scored the game's fourth run when he raced home on a wild pitch, but the inning finally ended as Reisinger popped out to Eastside shortstop Colben Steury, who made the grab as he was falling backward.
Steury reached on an error in the top of the seventh, but Reisinger struck out the final two batters to secure a complete-game win. He finished with 11 strikeouts.
Eastside second baseman Liam Franz was named the Mental Attitude Award Winner after the conclusion of the game.