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FINISHED! Eagles get redemption

FINISHED! Eagles get redemption
FINISHED! Eagles get redemption
Lanesville players pile on one another after recording the final out against Rossville to capture the state championship. Photos By Brian Smith

Taped to the home dugout at Lanesville’s Ed Jaegers Memorial Field is a poster for the 2017 Lanesville Eagles filled with various photos and sayings.
One spot had athletic tape covering a portion that, once pulled back, now reads ‘2017 STATE CHAMPS!’
‘If you can see it in your mind, you can hold it in your hand,’ another spot on the poster says.
Well, the Eagles’ players needed all hands on deck Saturday afternoon at Victory Field in Indianapolis. For the first time in school history, Lanesville won the biggest trophy of them all, defeating Rossville 5-1 for the Class 1A state baseball title. Double the size of the runner-up trophy the Eagles took home last year, the Indiana-shaped hardware certainly has more weight.
‘The one we had last year is a baby,’ Lanesville senior Ryan McCubbins said.
Setting goals are a priority for most teams. Lanesville’s was set a year back immediately after a season-ending 4-0 defeat to Daleville.
‘We talked about it all the time; we didn’t get to start at the state championship,’ Lanesville coach Zach Payne said. ‘These kids are incredible. This is the goal for every coach in Indiana, to be standing on Victory Field with this trophy. I’m one of the fortunate ones to do it.’
During the six postseason games, Lanesville gave up only five runs while scoring 39. The pitching, defense and offense continued on the biggest stage.
‘This is an answered prayer for most of us,’ catcher Evan Peele said. ‘This is something we’ve dreamed about as kids playing tee ball together. All the glory to God. I wouldn’t have wanted to do this with any other guys. It’s something I’ll never forget.’
It was Peele’s bat that tilted a scoreless game in the fifth inning toward the No. 8-ranked Eagles. With two outs, Isaac Casabella drew a walk while Greg Daly legged out an infield single. The third time through the order saw No. 3 Rossville coach Brad Scott turn the game over from 11-game winner Trevor Waggoner to reliever Dawson Jacoby.
Peele had a simple approach against Jacoby, eventually squaring up a line drive to center, easily bringing in two runs. Turning to the purple-filled seats along the first baseline, Peele pounded his chest in approval.
‘Momentum is everything to us,’ Peele said. ‘We feed off that, our fans feed off that and we feed off our fans. We had two outs, and we scored five runs. That was big to get that hit and score two. Then, the guys behind me kept it going.’
Keeping it rolling, McCubbins drew a walk then saw Harvey bring in two more runs with a single. Mitchell Bailey capped the frame with a laser shot toward the left-centerfield fence sending the dugout and fans into a further frenzy.
‘We knew we were going to break through; it was just a matter of when,’ Payne said. ‘I didn’t think it would all come with two outs, but our guys are resilient. They’ve done it all year, scoring with two outs. Our kids are never going to quit.’
Prior to Jacoby throwing a pitch, Payne told Peele to not think about clubbing a home run, but to put the ball in play hard somewhere.
The game, with a 5-0 lead midway through the fifth, set perfectly for Lanesville. The right-handed Harvey continued his postseason dominance on the hill. Throwing 72 of his 101 pitches for strikes, Harvey controlled the Rossville lineup.
‘It felt good,’ Harvey said. ‘I knew the top four or five guys were pretty good, so I went and attacked them. I thought I was going to throw more off-speed this game, but it ended up they were hitting my off-speed more than my fastball.’
Pounding the zone, Harvey had the assistance from his fielders as well. Starting two freshmen ‘ shortstop Zach Fink and right fielder Casabella ‘ saw plenty of action. Fink provided the game’s first out, while Casabella had a handful of sliding grabs to take away potential hits by the Hornets.
‘When we had the two-out rally, that was the big moment,’ Fink said. ‘Cam’s pitching was amazing. Our defense played well … I was nervous, but, once I got that first one out of the way, it was easy.’
Rossville tried to bounce back in the fifth but was only able to muster one run out of a bases-loaded situation. A wild pitch allowed Mark Soiseth to score after reaching via walk. Harvey escaped further damage by getting a ground out to hold a 5-1 edge.
‘He’s been incredible,’ Payne said of Harvey. ‘The fact he’s been able to come back from (Tommy John surgery) better than before is pretty amazing. We feel comfortable with all four of our top pitchers ‘ Cam, Greg, Brenden (Bube), Mitch ‘ pitching in the state championship game.’
Smooth through the final two innings, Harvey and the Eagles continued to hold the Rossville offense at bay. For the game, Rossville scattered three hits and left six runners on base.
For the final out of the season, second baseman Logan Sutherland handled a ground ball, tossing it to Bailey for a smooth putout of Jacoby. Piling on one another in front of the pitcher’s mound, Lanesville completed the goal: not only getting to the state final again, but winning.
‘It feels amazing to come back and have the redemption,’ McCubbins said. ‘No one gets this opportunity again; it never happens or rarely. Now that we’ve won it, I’m so glad we came in second last year because it fueled us the whole way to get that blue ribbon.’
McCubbins had a thrilling and painful start to his second appearance at state. Splitting the gap with a rocket to the Victory Field wall, McCubbins was thrown out at third trying for a triple in the opening inning. Coming at a cost, McCubbins needed medical attention for a dislocated finger but remained in the game.
Lanesville had a chance to score in the third when Fink started with a single but, despite a sacrifice to scoring position, was never brought all the way around. McCubbins, plunked by a pitch to the back to start the fourth, couldn’t get home either.
The knocking on the door to score finally worked in the fifth.
Rossville’s trio of pitchers ‘ Waggoner, Jacoby and Matt Homco ‘ combined to strikeout two, walk two and give up six hits. Homco was flawless in 2-1/3 innings of relief.
A season ago, it was Brenden Bube on the mound for the Eagles, but an ACL injury during basketball season sidelined him until the baseball postseason. It was Harvey, pitching the final inning of the Daleville game, making his first appearance as a pitcher since an elbow surgery.
‘With Brenden going down before the season starts, I don’t think it gets talked about enough, is the rest of the team stepping up,’ Payne said. ‘They were still able to accomplish the goal.’
There was maturity and leadership gained through injuries to both players.
‘I had a different aspect and point of view from not playing, but it taught me a lot,’ Bube said. ‘I got better mentally, and the guys got better … Like Ryan (McCubbins) said last year when we lost, he told a newspaper reporter that he expected us to come back and win this game next year. We did that.’
Harvey said his mental game improved as well.
‘Unfortunately, having Tommy John, it puts you out of the game for a while so you watch a lot of baseball as you are sitting out and rehabbing,’ Harvey said. ‘I watched a lot of college and high school baseball. I learned the (strike) zone and watched other players. It helps you more than playing the game. I came back stronger than I was before helped out quite a bit.’
Young players played a role, too. Fink said he attended the semi-state game a year ago as an eighth grader but missed the trip to state as a spectator.
‘I was thinking to myself, I wish I was out there,’ he recalled. ‘Then, there I was. The senior group has been kind and willing to take us freshmen in.’
Lanesville’s roster boasts 10 seniors: Tristin Brown, Dakota Fonda, Ridge Hess, Tim Oberdieck, Tommy Tidstrom, Bube, Daly, Harvey, McCubbins and Peele.
‘There are 10 seniors, and we turned into brothers,’ Harvey said. ‘At the beginning of the season, we had a goal to go back to Victory Field. We set that goal at the end of last year as soon as we lost. Finally, achieving that goal is a huge accomplishment.’
McCubbins thought back to eighth-grade year, when the core of seniors knew they were good but maybe not to the state crown level yet.
‘We never knew that we’d win a state championship,’ McCubbins said. ‘It’s the greatest feeling in the world, especially as a senior, being your last game in high school. It’s just the best.’
Peele said the celebration back in Lanesville is sure to be a hit.
‘Apparently, they are shutting down Main Street. That’s what I’ve heard,’ Peele said.
Payne, having come close to Victory Field as a player and assistant coach at Providence High School, has won his first state title in his third year. The 27-year-old ran up the steps in the stands to share the moment with family.
‘I went up to see my dad,’ said a humble Payne. ‘He means everything to me. He really wanted this. I don’t think I could ever have a better Father’s Day present for him. I got off cheap this year.’
As a team, Lanesville (20-6) baseball has brought home the first state title in a team sport to Harrison County.
‘I don’t even know,’ Payne said of the upcoming celebrations. ‘It’s going to be wild.’