FINISH: Bunting Eagles prevail, swarm Braves for third sectional title
Heartbreak ended Lanesville’s baseball season a year ago at the hands of Borden.
Since then, each time the Eagles broke huddle from a workout, practice or game, they would chant ‘Finish.’
Monday, they finished.
Entrenched in a pitcher’s duel ‘ Lanesville’s Brenden Bube versus Borden’s Lucas McNew ‘ neither team’s bats produced much offense.
That all changed in the sixth inning when a Borden fielding error led to small-ball tactics. A lot of small-ball tactics. Four of the next five Lanesville batters after Tommy Tidstrom reached on an error laid down bunts. All four ‘ Jon Will, Greg Daly, Ryan McCubbins and Mitchell Bailey ‘ ended up safe at first base. Smack in the middle of the bunt-fest, Bube ripped a single to left.
The strategy ended McNew’s string of retiring 15 straight batters and spoiled a then 1-0 Borden lead.
Lanesville took the small ball and Bube’s right arm to a 4-1 victory at Ed Jaegers Memorial Field in Lanesville. Soon after the final out, seniors for the Eagles hoisted the Class 1A Lanesville Sectional trophy for the third time in program history. The last came in 2010 and before then, 1975.
‘I knew it would be a battle between those two pitchers,’ Lanesville coach Zach Payne said. ‘Lucas McNew and Brenden Bube are not only two of the best pitchers, but best baseball players in this area. I had a feeling it would come down to one or two plays in the field by either team. Sure enough, it did.’
Emotions ran high after senior second baseman Luke Beach threw to Cameron Harvey at first base for the final out. Gloves went reaching for the clouds as players dog-piled in front of the pitcher’s mound. Celebrating ensued with family and friends, along with a trip to the centerfield wall to lift the hardware toward the cheering fans at Hog’s Tavern.
‘After our loss last year, we’ve been waiting for this moment,’ junior Greg Daly said. ‘We’ve wanted Borden so bad, and we got it. This whole week and season has been preparation for this game. It’s surreal.’
Will, one of the team’s four seniors, has been driven to the championship moment from the opening-round game of 2015. Then, he was in left field when McNew hit an eventual game-winning homer.
‘These young guys have worked really hard,’ Will said. ‘I remember last year when the ball went over my head. I used that picture as motivation all year. Coach told me I could be a big player this year, so I worked really hard. It’s paid off.’
Bube and McNew motored through the first 4-1/2 innings without much pressure. Daly had a game-opening triple but was left at third. From that moment until the sixth, McNew retired 15 in a row, 11 by way of strikeout.
Bube was electrifying as well. He allowed a single and walk with two outs in each of the third and fourth innings but snuck out of trouble.
Borden scored its lone run in the fifth when Caleb Hart reached on a single and error. The fielding error put him at second, prompting Payne to intentionally walk the talented McNew. Both runners advanced a base on a wild pitch with Hart eventually scoring on a Travis Konermann sac fly to center.
Part of Bube’s preparation for the game revolved around Hart and McNew.
‘I had a game plan going in to work away from McNew,’ Bube said. ‘If there weren’t runners on base, I knew he couldn’t hurt me. He could hit a solo home run, but I knew to work he and Caleb Hart away. It happened to work. When the ball was hit, the defense behind me made plays.’
The offensive heroics for Lanesville primarily came inside the 60 feet, 6 inches between the pitching rubber and home plate.
Once Tidstrom reached on an error, Will popped up a bunt near the third-base line. Once the ball fell, pinch runner Logan Sutherland and Will were on base.
Daly followed up with a bunt, reaching on an error to load the bases for Bube. Coming up with a clutch hit, Bube deposited a line drive to left, bringing home Sutherland and Will.
Back to bunting, McCubbins put down a squeeze in front of home plate to score a run. He also reached first base safely. Keeping with the theme, Bailey bunted to score Bube when Kyle Leftwich’s missed diving try at third base allowed everyone to be safe.
‘It all went so fast,’ Payne said of the key four-run inning. ‘The kids love doing the small-ball stuff. It becomes contagious and (they) want to do it in the future. We put pressure on them. We wanted to keep bunting the ball, running bases and force them to make plays.’
Daly said once a booted ball allowed Tidstrom to reach, the bench caught new life.
‘When he put that ball in play and got on, we all got some energy,’ Daly said. ‘We were really pumped.’
‘Once we caught fire, it was on,’ Will said. ‘The last few weeks, we worked really hard on bunting. Small ball can win these type of games, and we have a lot of speed throughout our lineup.’
Borden put runners on in the final two innings; all reached with two outs. Bube had little issue closing out the game. The righty struck out 11 and walked four.
‘That was the best game I’ve ever seen him pitch,’ Payne said. ‘He pitched really well in his last two starts against Silver Creek and New Albany. He broke a lot of bad habits playing against good competition, and it carried over to today.’
Bube said he was ready for the battle against McNew on the hill. In the end, small-ball execution won out.
‘From conditioning, one of our goals was to win a sectional,’ Bube said. ‘To work all year at the little things ‘ bunts, hit and runs, squeezes ‘ it came in play today. I couldn’t ask for a better way to win. It’s a fun group. A great feeling.’
Bube scattered five hits across seven innings, giving up two each to Cory Anderson and Hart.
McNew closed with 12 strikeouts before being lifted with one out in the sixth. Daly was 2 for 4 at the plate.
‘I am happy for these guys,’ Payne said. ‘I’ve been lucky to be part of six of these as a player and coach (at Providence). I’m happy to see these guys work for a sectional. When I took the job, I wanted to win one for them. Today, we got it.’
Lanesville improved to 12-11 and used ‘Finish’ printed on the team poster at the home ball park as motivation. Now, they have a date with Trinity Lutheran at the Loogootee Regional on Saturday at 1 p.m.
‘After that game against Borden last year, every time we break the huddle from that moment, we are going to say ‘Finish.’ We finished this year,’ Payne said.
Lanesville 000 004 0 ‘ 4 6 2
Borden 000 010 0 ‘ 1 5 1
W ‘ Bube, L ‘ McNew.
3B ‘ Daly (L).
The four-team, two-game Loogootee Regional will take place Saturday.
Northeast Dubois (13-9) will take on Barr-Reeve (13-10) in game one at 11 a.m. The second game will pit Lanesville (12-11) versus Trinity Lutheran (19-8) at approximately 1 p.m.
The winners will return to Loogootee to play the championship game at 8.
Trinity Lutheran defeated Lanesville 3-1 in a regular season meeting on April 16. The Eagles also lost to Barr-Reeve, 14-2, on the same date at an event hosted by Lanesville.
Admission is $6 per session or $10 for both sessions.