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Ray’s single lifts Rebels over rivals

Ray’s single lifts Rebels over rivals
Ray’s single lifts Rebels over rivals
The South Central baseball team poses for fans with the Class 1A Sectional trophy after defeating Lanesville, 3-2, in eight innings. Photos by Brian Smith (click for larger version)

South Central’s Spencer Ray was greeted by a mob of teammates at second base after the sophomore provided the game-winning hit to punch the Rebels’ ticket to the regional.
The Rebels had gone five innings without a hit until Ray drove home Jason Boston with a single to left field in the eighth to defeat rival Lanesville, 3-2, in the Class 1A Sectional championship game Monday.
‘I got a curveball,’ Ray said. ‘I knew it was coming, sat back on it and drove it to left. It was a tough pitch to hit, but I got enough of it.’
The inning was set up by a one-out walk issued to Boston. He then moved to second on an errant throw from Lanesville pitcher Brandon Blackerby on a pick-off attempt. Josh Sams advanced Boston to third with a ground ball, setting up Ray’s winning hit.
‘We got a one-out walk, and we were fortunate to get him to second,’ South Central coach Nick Tremain said. ‘Then, the middle of our order was coming up. Ray put a good at-bat together. He has done well all season with the winning run in scoring position. He did it one more time for us when we needed it.’
It was the fifth time this season Ray has provided a game-winning hit.
‘Brandon did a heck of a job,’ Lanesville coach Sean Smith said of his lefty reliever. ‘That kid hit a ball below his knees. He made the pitch, and he had a heck of a hit.’
It was the second consecutive game the Rebels used their last at-bat to land the win. They needed heroics from their lone senior, Josh Sams, to defeat Henryville in the semi-final.
‘It is great, finally getting one,’ Sams said of the sectional. ‘Getting to a sectional final two times before and not getting one was tough. Finally getting it feels really good.’
South Central used a trio of pitchers. Starter Matt Veith pitched three innings, giving up two runs. Lefty Alex Wiseman pitched three innings of relief to reach his maximum innings allowed. Then, Boston entered in the seventh, striking out five in two innings for the win.
‘We had three guys we could use if we needed them,’ Tremain said. ‘We went with Boston, who hasn’t thrown all sectional, and he came in and pumped strikes. That was huge for us. He threw all fastballs.’
Smith said his guys struggled against Boston.
‘You’re getting Veith, then Wiseman, then Boston; you’re getting some tough pitchers,’ he said. ‘Boston coming in and throwing that hard was difficult. It may have been interesting if our lineup came around a second time to see him.’
South Central opened the game with a two-run second inning. Sams scored after hitting a lead-off double, and Mark O’Connor came around after a walk. Veith hit an RBI single, and Wiseman had the RBI sac fly.
From there, the Rebels offense went stagnant.
‘Caleb pitched really well,’ Smith said. ‘In the sixth, our assistant coach talked to him and Caleb said he was nearing his end. He got out of the inning, and his adrenaline was pumping. He wanted to keep going, but, since he told us he was wearing down, we had Blackerby that could pitch well for us ready to go.’
Lanesville tied the game in the third when Caldwell led off with a triple. He scored on a Blackerby single. With one out, Blackerby came across the plate when Ben Baumgart grounded out.
The Eagles stranded two in the fourth, which was their last key opportunity to score.
‘I knew it would be a battle,’ Smith said. ‘South is very good, and Nick does a great job. We were going to have to play our best game of the year, which we basically did. We just didn’t take advantage when we had runners on.’
South Central improved to 17-9 and had to face a tough road to the championship, defeating Borden, Henryville and Lanesville.
‘When we saw the draw, we knew we’d face three good teams, face everybody’s No. 1 (pitcher),’ Tremain said. ‘The kids did a good job taking it one game at a time. It was a tough tournament.’
The sectional championship is the third in school history and the first since 2007.
South Central advanced to the Loogootee Regional where the Rebels will face Wood Memorial at 10:30 a.m. Saturday. The winner advances to the regional final at 8 p.m. that night.