Once again Tuesday evening the hill side of Chris Rood field was packed in anticipation of the match up between the Northfield Norsemen and the Manchester Squires playing for the sectional championship.
The game lived up to it’s billing, taking two extra innings to decide a champion. Ball State bound Scott Baker going against Sophomore sensation Ryan Keaffaber. The Norse were ranked #6 in the state and the Squires were on a roll the last couple weeks. Northfield prevailed in the 9th, 5-1.
It didn’t take long to see it was going to be a pitchers dual. Northfield was the visitors and batted first. Baker struck out the first two batters he faced and got the third to line out. In the bottom of the inning Logan Brunn singled, but Keaffaber struck out two of the four batters he faced and it was scoreless after one.
In the second Baker made short work of the Norse, forcing two fly outs and pop up. In the bottom of the second Baker singled but the Squires stalled and we were still scoreless after two.
In the third inning both pitchers dominated as Baker struck out two and Keaffaber struck out the side.
In the fourth inning the ice was finally broken. Adam House walked to be Northfield’s first base runner of the night. Tanner Chamberlain then placed the perfect bunt for a single and Northfield’s first hit. After Peyton Ross bunted to move the runners over, Andy Roser hit a fielder’s choice that scored a run and Northfield led 1-0. Manchester answered. Connor McLaughlin and Scott Baker had back to back singles with one out to get the Squires started. Anthony Saunders then singled to drive McLaughlin home and it was 1-1. After a sacrifice bunt moved the runners over, Northfield intentionally walked Austin Flack to load the bases. Keaffaber calmly struck out the next batter to get out of the inning tied at 1.
In the fifth inning both teams went three up and three down, with each pitcher recording a strike out. The sixth inning was much of the same with no threats. Northfield’s Dallas Hovey did make a nice catch in left field to start the inning.
Both teams would have minor threats in the seventh as each team made an error allowing base runners, but both pitchers worked their way out and we were headed for extra innings.
Baker shut down Northfield in the eighth, striking out two of the three outs. In the Manchester half of the inning with two outs McLaughlin singled but Keaffaber forced a ground ball to get out of any trouble.
For the Norse in the ninth with one out Peyton Ross doubled to get things started. Andy Roser singled and then Ross scored on a fielding error. Keaffaber then bunted his way on and Joseph Ross bunted the runners to second and third. Austin Keen then laced a two rbi double to the right side of center field to put the Norse up 4-1. Hunter Wells followed Keen with a single to drive in the fifth run.
After a fly out to start Manchester’s half of the inning, Keaffaber took matters in his own hands by striking out the last two batters and the Norse move on to Saturday’s regional at Wabash.
The regional will start at 11:00am Saturday. The first game will be Delpi vs Taylor, followed by Northfield vs Adams Central. The championship is at 7:00