LAFAYETTE — Getting on base was never a problem for Carroll during Saturday’s regional championship, but the Chargers continually struggled to make it home.
After getting to the Lafayette Jefferson regional for the first time since 2013 last year, this year’s returners could still almost taste semi-state. In the end, it was another long night for Carroll’s baserunners.
Despite outhitting Hamilton Southeastern (21-8) through the first three and a half innings during Saturday’s championship game, the Chargers didn’t manage to score until the bottom of the seventh. Meanwhile, the Royals scored runs in four separate innings to oust the Chargers 6-1.
“We all wanted to win, but they played hard,” Carroll Head Coach Dave Ginder said. “We had opportunities, put pressure on them. We didn’t make a couple plays, we didn’t come up with a big hit, but I felt like we had runners and opportunities. We got beat by a very good baseball team, so I didn’t feel like we lost it — they just beat us tonight in a good baseball game.”
The Royals scored in every way they could Saturday — off singles in the first and sixth innings, doubles in the fifth and sixth, a home run in the fourth and an infield error in the fifth.
Through all seven innings, HSE’s batters wouldn’t let up on sophomore Conner Miller, who threw 87 pitches for Carroll, giving up eight hits and striking out three batters.
“Jake (Shirk) battled this morning and did a great job, and Conner was Conner tonight,” Ginder said. “We didn’t make a couple plays and they had a couple hits in situations where we didn’t come up with getting those runners in, but Conner did a phenomenal job. That’s the Conner we know, and we just hope we continue to meld and get better down the road and see what happens.”
The Royals’ Greyson Droste had a pair of hits and two RBI, in addition to the game’s only home run. Cam Bolling hit two doubles on the night, batting in runners each time.
Despite taking an early deficit in the game, Carroll was outhitting HSE 5-1 through the first three innings. By the end of the game, the Chargers’ bats matched the Royals’ eight hits.
Sebastian Kuhns had Carroll’s only RBI on the night, scoring Jaycob McCullough with a fielder’s choice to the Royals’ third baseman. However, HSE forced a Carroll runner out at third for the second out, and cleaned up with a fly out to left field to close out the game.
Seniors Bryce Ginder and Micah Fretz each had a pair of hits for Carroll, including one double each in their final outing with the team. Eddie Bransfield also had two hits in three at-bats.
On the Royals’ mound, Tyler Schweitzer collected nine strikeouts in six innings pitched.
“We continually got better and better throughout the year,” Ginder said. “We faced good pitching today and just didn’t come up with the big one.”
The Chargers made it to Saturday’s championship with a 12-4 win over Logansport. Junior Jake Shirk pitched the first six innings in that game, grabbing three strikeouts, and Cam Niedens tacked on a fourth in the seventh inning. The Chargers amassed 10 hits, led by three hits and two RBI by senior Peyton Monnell.
The Chargers finished their season with a 23-9 record. The team will say goodbye to five seniors this year in Fretz, Bryce Ginder, Monnell and Connor Starke.
“We’re going to miss those seniors — they did a great job for us,” Ginder said. “We need to continue to get stronger and develop, but we have a lot of good baseball kids in our dugout, and winning and competing is important to them. We have a lot of good stuff coming back, so I’m happy with our progress. We’ve still got a ways to go, but some of our young guys got a taste today to maybe be able to get back here again. It’s never easy.”