By Noah Dalton
MITCHELL – After winning five straight to close the regular season, Mitchell High School’s momentum continued into sectional play on Thursday, as the Bluejackets gutted out a tense 3-2 victory of South Knox to advance to the semifinal.
In a game that featured two of the strongest teams at the 2A level in the state coming in, with Mitchell ranked sixth and the Spartans on the shortlist of teams receiving votes to be ranked in the top 10, the Bluejackets managed to stay poised against high-level competition on their way to the win.
“I’ll tell you what, that is a good baseball team right there. We beat a good team tonight. I really think coming in, I thought that we were two of the best teams in it and they showed why they’re 19-6, I believe they are coming in, getting points for the top 10. And I thought our boys kept their composure, played a great game and we were fortunate,” Mitchell head coach Jerry Chaney said.
It wasn’t until the third inning of play when the first run was scored, going to Mitchell in the top of the inning.
With just a few hits between both teams to that point, the Bluejackets managed to put three straight batters on base to kick off the inning, with a single from Ashton Luman and walks from AJ Sarver and Simon Gaines. The run was scored via the third walk drawn in the inning by Mitchell’s Carsyn Herald, forcing home Luman from third.
It looked as if the Bluejackets were going to end the inning with at least two runs, as during the next at-bat, Gibson Glassco laid down a bunt that sent Gaines charging with a head of steam from third, sliding into home plate. Originally called safe, the ruling was overturned afterward, with Gaines being called out at the plate, much to the dismay of Mitchell’s hometown crowd.
They went on to end the inning leaving the bases loaded with just one run on the board.
Both sides were kept quiet again until the top of the fifth, when the Bluejackets finally cracked the Spartans’ armor, with Gaines smashing a fly ball straight into a gap around center field that he turned into a triple. He’d later score on an RBI double from Ben Seitzinger, who himself scored from second thanks to a base hit from Herald to put Mitchell up 3-0.
South Knox came charging back late in the game, scoring two runs with two outs in the bottom of the sixth. Dylan Maeder was the first to reach base for the Spartans in the inning, getting to first after a Bluejackets error. He was brought home in the next at-bat thanks to a big double from Tanner Holland. Pinch-runner Ross Holscher scored the team’s second run after a base hit from Justin Siewers.
With Siewers as the potential tying run on second after a stolen base, South Knox’s Jeffrey Smith and Mitchell pitcher Ben Seitzinger squared off in a 10-pitch battle that saw Seitzinger and the Bluejackets earn the final out after Smith grounded out to second to end the inning and retain their lead.
Mitchell were unable to pad their lead in the top of the seventh, leaving the Spartans needing just one run to even up the game in the final half-inning.
The first batter for South Knox, Jacob Allen, hit a ground ball straight to Seitzinger who threw him out at first to begin the inning. Next, Holland was hit by a pitch, placing him on first as the tying run.
Evan Hartwick was brought in as the pinch runner for Holland, stealing second base as the next batter, Gavin Charleston, struck out swinging for the second out.
The Bluejackets recorded the final out of the game as their catcher, Herald, threw out Hartwick on an attempted steal of third, securing their victory and their spot in the semifinals.
Both team’s starting pitchers were lights out at the mound, with Seitzinger allowing just four hits and zero earned runs, striking out four. He faced a total of 27 batters in the game, throwing 111 pitches and nearly throwing a complete game, with Gaines coming in before the final at-bat in the bottom of the seventh.
For the Spartans, Allen threw a complete game, with six hits and three earned runs allowed to go along with 12 strikeouts on the night. He faced 31 batters throughout the game, throwing 110 pitches,
“That Allen kid, I had already watched him a couple of times, and I knew how he was and I had six other coaches tell me, he’s a gutsy kid. He’s gonna keep throwing hard, but we have one of those kids over here too. So, it was really between our two kids,” Chaney said about the battle between the two starters. “Now Ben got a little tired. That was fourth time through their lineup. I had to bring Simon and he did exactly what Simon does.”
Chaney said these are the kinds of games his team will need to be able to consistently win if they want to continue advancing and make a deep postseason run as they look ahead towards their semifinal matchup against Linton-Stockton (14-12).
“It was a tough game, but well played. I keep telling the boys, the team that wins is the team that executes bunts, make some routine plays routinely and moves on to the next step. We’ve got to keep moving,” he said. “As an assistant coach and a coach, I’ve been here before and I keep telling the kids, way back when I first started coaching in 1990, we went to the state finals, we didn’t beat everybody by 10 runs. We won games 3-2, 5-4. It’s the team that makes the routine plays routinely, that will get you through it and that’s what we’ve got to do to beat this next club, Linton.”
The two teams will square off Monday morning at 10 a.m. with the winner advancing to the final the same night at 7 p.m. against the winner of the other semifinal matchup, Eastern Greene (12-13) against Sullivan (12-16-1.)
“We kind of knew that’s where it was gonna end up anyway, so we didn’t get the best draw in the tournament that we wanted, but you know what? You got to beat all three of them to win it, so let’s just beat all three and try it,” said Chaney. “We’re sitting at 23-6, I feel confident. I hope the boys feel confident, I believe they’re starting to. I know they’re starting to believe, you can see it on their faces.”
Batting2B: Ben Seitzinger
3B: Simon Gaines
TB: Simon Gaines 3, Gibson Glassco, Carsyn Herald, Ashton Luman, Ben Seitzinger 3
RBI: Carsyn Herald 2, Ben Seitzinger
FC: Gibson Glassco
SB: Ashton Luman
TotalsTeam QAB: 13 (41.94%)
Simon Gaines 2, Gibson Glassco 2, Carsyn Herald 3, Ashton Luman, AJ Sarver 2, Ben Seitzinger 2, Bryson Zeeks
Team LOB: 7FieldingE: Simon Gaines
DP: Kody Earl, Simon Gaines
South Knoxmore stats
Batting2B: Trey Holland
TB: McKinney, Trey Holland 2, Siewers, Smith
RBI: Trey Holland, Siewers
SAC: Zach Allen
ROE: Maeder, Smith
HBP: Maeder, Tanner Holland
GIDP: Trey Holland
SB: McKinney, Siewers, Smith, Hartwick
TotalsTeam QAB: 15 (55.56%)
Jacob Allen 3, McKinney 2, Trey Holland 3, Siewers, Smith 2, Zach Allen 2, Tanner Holland, Charleston
Team LOB: 4FieldingE: Jacob Allen
PitchingW: Ben Seitzinger
SV: Simon Gaines
HBP: Ben Seitzinger 2
WP: Ben Seitzinger
Pitches-Strikes: Simon Gaines 6-3, Ben Seitzinger 111-76
Groundouts-Flyouts: Simon Gaines 0-0, Ben Seitzinger 8-7
First pitch strikes-Batters faced: Simon Gaines 0-0, Ben Seitzinger 19-27
South Knoxmore stats
PitchingL: Jacob Allen
Pitches-Strikes: Jacob Allen 110-76
Groundouts-Flyouts: Jacob Allen 3-5
First pitch strikes-Batters faced: Jacob Allen 22-31