DECATUR – Norwell baseball coach David Goodmiller played a hunch and it catapulted his team to its first regional championship since 2013.
With the Knights' Class 3A Bellmont regional title contest against No. 3 Leo on Saturday tied at the 3 in the bottom of the sixth, Goodmiller sent freshman Trey Bodenheimer to pinch-hit with two on and two out.
“He's a great fastball hitter,” Goodmiller said of Bodenheimer. “Nobody's really seen him yet. I just thought, 'I'm going to stick him in there and hopefully he'll run into one and he did. He squared it up.”
Bodenheimer got a fastball and laced it to right. The Leo right-fielder got turned around and the ball ticked off his glove after a desperate lunge, giving both runners a chance to score. Three outs later, the Knights were champions.
“My main thought was, 'Get a base hit, score some runs and let's win the game,' ” Bodenheimer said of his at-bat. “I got in the box, a little nervous. .... I put the ball in play. I was very excited, I was in shock (when the ball landed).”
The Knights trailed 3-1 in the third, but an RBI single from Luke Graft scored Eli Riley to cut the lead in half. Later in the inning, Graft was on third and wandered a little too far off the bag. A pickoff throw from Leo pitcher Coley Stevens, which would have cut him down, instead sailed high and into right field, letting Graft race home with the tying run.
Riley went 1 for 2 with a walk, two stolen bases and two runs scored. He also caught a complete game from senior pitcher Brett Wathen. Wathen struck out eight, including two during a 1-2-3 seventh inning.
The hard-throwing right-hander celebrated by pantomiming sheathing a sword – a move he learned from Cy Young Award winner Trevor Bauer – as his team rushed out to greet him after the final out.
“He gutted it out,” Goodmiller said of Wathen. “That last inning, he said he wanted to go out and I said, 'Well, go get them.”
“I wanted to finish what I started,” Wathen added.
The Lions finished their season 29-4, coming up short of their first regional title since 2001. Their big blow was a two-run double from Braden Hicks in the first inning.
The Knights reached the title game after they scored five runs in the eighth inning to beat Wawasee 7-2 in the afternoon semifinals.
FISHERS 8, HOMESTEAD 4: In Kokomo, the Spartans (26-7) let a 4-1 lead get away in the regional semifinals. Carter Mathison went 2 for 4.
HARRISON 15, NORTHROP 0: In Kokomo, the Bruins (13-16) saw their season come to an end in the regional semifinals.
EASTSIDE 18, CENTRAL NOBLE 3: At Whiting, the Blazers (22-5) won their first-ever regional title, eliminating the Cougars (15-15). Eastside beat Wheeler to reach the championship game, Central Noble took down Boone Grove.
WASHINGTON TOWNSHIP 10, BLACKHAWK CHRISTIAN 1: At South Bend Washington, the Braves (13-17) beat Class A No. 2 Southwood 5-1 in the semifinals behind a home run and two shutout innings from Jake Boyer, but fell to No. 1 Washington Township in the final.
LAKE CENTRAL 1, COLUMBIA CITY 0: At Harrison, the Eagles (26-7) fell short of their first-ever semistate title against the No. 3 team in the state.
GUERIN CATHOLIC 12, BISHOP DWENGER 0: At Twin Lakes, the Saints saw their season end with a 28-5 record.