Stars dig deep for motivation during 7-2 win over East in HHC tournament finale

BNL’s Cal Gates dives into third while recording a stolen base. Gates had a key two-run single as the Stars conquered Columbus East 7-2 in the sixth-place game of the HHC tournament on Friday.

By Justin Sokeland

BEDFORD – After back-to-back, one-run losses in this historical Tournament of Frustration, also known as the Hoosier Hills Conference, Bedford North Lawrence needed a motivational spark. Playing in the sixth-place game of the league playoffs doesn’t exactly move the excitement needle.

Walker Ward supplied exactly what the Stars needed, pitching superbly. So did Cal Gates, with a clutch hit. That’s what separates the mentally tough from the run-over rabble. BNL got up, dusted off the dirt from a tough week, and won a revenge game. Get back to work, dig a little deeper.

Ward hurled five shutout innings, Gates stroked a key two-out hit for breakaway runs, and the Stars bounced back with a solid 7-2 victory over Columbus East in the final round of the HHC tournament on Friday afternoon.

Returning home after a seven-game road swing, BNL avenged an earlier loss to the Olympians (4-17) with the expected dominance. Winning soothes the savage beasts after they’ve hungered for a while.

BNL’s Walker Ward allowed only two hits and struck out nine in five shutout innings on the mound.

“We lost two tough games (at Seymour and Jennings County), and it’s been a long stretch,” BNL coach Jeff Callahan said. “Being at home always helps. Just to get back on track. We were stuck on 14 wins.”

Ward got the Stars unstuck, as he allowed only two hits and struck out nine. Gates punched out a two-run single for a 3-0 lead in the second, and BNL (15-7) added four more runs in the third. That was more than enough.

“We came out a little more focused,” Callahan said. “When you score early, and often, get a lead, it’s a lot easier to play.”

BNL got started with a run in the first. Kaedyn Bennett reached on an error, Kline Woodward doubled into the left-field corner, and Bennett scored on a wild pitch. Then came the crucial second, when the Stars created breathing room. Carter Bennett and Ward both singled, both moved up on a wild pitch, and both scored when Gates smacked his single to right.

The Stars broke it open in the third. After managing only four hits during the loss at Jennings, they collected that many in one frame. Jonny Stone, Ward and Nathan Pemberton all had RBI singles, and Kaedyn Bennett capped the scoring with a sharp double for the final run.

BNL’s Carter Bennett connects for a hit during a four-run third inning.

Five of BNL’s runs were produced with two outs.

“That’s important, we haven’t had that lately,” Callahan said. “It’s good to get ‘em on, but you got to get ‘em in.”

Stone and Ward both had two hits, and Maddox Ray scored twice.

East scored twice (both runs were unearned) in the seventh against BNL reliever Will Adams, who made a self-preservation snag of a line drive during that rally. East’s Chase Niese had two hits and drove in one of the late runs.

East had stunned the Stars 5-2 on April 25.

BNL will seek more revenge on Monday in a home rematch with Jennings County.

BNL’s Maddox Ray scampers to third base on his way to scoring a run.