By Justin Sokeland
BEDFORD – Jennings County coach B.J. Sigler flashed the sign from the third-base box, putting the ultimate pressure on his son. Hey, if you can’t trust family, who can you trust?
Cole Sigler, following orders to perfection, dropped down an exquisite, textbook squeeze bunt to score the go-ahead run in the top of the eighth inning, pushing the Panthers to a tense 2-1 victory over Bedford North Lawrence on Monday evening. For the second time in five days, the Stars suffered another loss to Jennings – by the exact identical score – while stranding 10 runners.
Little things made the difference. Jennings (10-12) executed flawlessly twice in the eighth to produce the winning run. BNL (15-8) couldn’t capitalize on scoring chances, wasting Cade Mungle’s superb outing on the mound and a defensive effort that included two runners gunned down at home plate.
Jennings put together a clinic in situational offense in the eighth. With one out, Sam Burkman reached on an infield single when he chopped a ball over Mungle’s head and easily beat the throw. On a full-count pitch, Austin Byford cracked a snappy hit-and-run single to right as Burkman scampered to third.
That was Mungle’s final pitch. On reliever Kline Woodward’s second pitch, Sigler dropped down the perfect squeeze bunt in front of home plate as Burkman raced home unchallenged.
“You couldn’t place that squeeze any place better than that,” BNL coach Jeff Callahan said. “They did a better job than we did across the board.”
Sigler had complete faith in his son.
“He’s done it before,” Coach Sigler said. “I trust all of our guys in that situation. It’s one of the things we take pride in. Get guys on, get ‘em over and score them. We practice bunting a lot.”
BNL scored first in the first against JC starter Keegan Manowitz. Cal Gates singled to left, Kaedyn Bennett dropped a sacrifice bunt, and with two out Mungle slammed a single down the right-field line. But from that point, the Stars couldn’t generate any more offense.
“It was deja vu all over again,” Callahan said, referencing the earlier loss. “Pitching was great, defense was solid. We couldn’t get a key hit. They executed and we didn’t.
“Cade held a team to two runs and you think we’d have a chance to win. If we had done some things throughout the game, it would have made a difference.”
Jennings pulled even in the second. Sigler drew a lead-off walk, Lane Zohrlaut smacked a single to center, and Ryan Schuck bunted both runners up. Sigler scored on a wild pitch.
BNL stayed alive by recording two outs at the plate. In the sixth, center fielder Cal Gates rifled a sensational throw to Jonny Stone to nail Byford for the third out. In the seventh, second baseman Maddox Ray caught Schuck at the plate as he attempted to score from second on an infield single.
“You have to take your chances in a game with very limited hitting,” Sigler said. “We both play the game the right way. Two games, clean defense, great pitching from both sides. It comes down to getting the timely hit, or in our case, executing the squeeze play when the situation required it. But if these teams played 10 times, we’d probably split. We’re that evenly matched.”
Manowitz earned the win, striking out 6 in seven innings. BNL will probably have someone make sure he accepts his graduation diploma later this month after his performances against the Stars in basketball (powering the Panthers to a sectional win in double overtime against BNL) and his two outings on the baseball diamond.
“He just hit his spots, pitched ahead in counts, very few mistakes to guys that can hurt you,” Sigler said. “That’s what Keegan does. You can count on him to compete and throw strikes.”
Gates and Stone had two hits each for BNL. Mungle struck out 8 and scattered 7 hits.
BNL will visit Providence on Thursday, then host the Huffman Invitational on Saturday with Silver Creek, Northview and Mt. Vernon (Fortville).