No. 3 Bluejackets win 11-inning PLAC battle against Perry Central 2-1

By Noah Dalton

LEOPOLD – Friday night’s matchup against Perry Central was a big one for Mitchell.

A rematch of last year’s regional championship game, a chance to topple the reigning Patoka Lake Athletic Conference champion Commodores, and a battle that could decide this year’s PLAC crown, with the two sides entering the night as the only teams still unbeaten in conference play.

The play on the field lived up to the tension of the matchup on paper, extending into 11 innings before the Bluejackets had earned the victory, squeaking past Perry Central by a narrow final score of 2-1.

Mitchell held the advantage for much of the matchup, scoring the first and only run of the game in the top of the third on an RBI single from Gibson Glassco.

They stayed out in front holding a shutout behind a standout performance at the hill from Ben Seitzinger, and a strong effort from the team’s defense, who carried a no-hitter through the first six innings, with Seitzinger striking out five.

The Commodores’ first hit of the game came at a crucial point. Down one in the bottom of the seventh with one out, Corbin Haughee slammed a double to left field, driving in a runner from second to even up the score.

Corbin Haughee stands at second after his game-saving RBI double against Mitchell

An error from the Bluejackets, their second of the inning, advanced the winning runner to third and put another on first.

With the game on the line, Seitzinger and the Bluejackets picked up two straight outs to retire the side, striking out the next batter before catching a fly ball in center field to send the game to extras.

The game looked like it was poised to end in the eighth inning. Mitchell loaded up the bags with no outs, but were unable to capitalize, leaving runners stranded after suffering three straight outs.

Perry Central had opportunities of their own to close things out in extras.

AJ Sarver tracks down a fly ball to end the seventh inning

With two outs, they slotted runners at first and second in the bottom of the ninth inning, but a ground out in the next at-bat left the winning run in scoring position to keep the game moving.

In the next frame, they found themselves in the same spot; two outs and runners at first and second, but again the Bluejackets recorded the vital third out to end the inning.

Mitchell’s winning shot came in the top of the 11th. With runners on first and second, Simon Gaines dropped a fly ball into right field for a single, allowing Ethan Turner to score from second to put the Bluejackets ahead going into the bottom of the inning.

From there, three consecutive outs secured the victory for Mitchell. Much like the final out they recorded in seventh, the final out of the game came on a fly ball to center field, this time resulting in a diving grab from Sarver to stop what looked to be a sure hit from Luke Zellers.

Simon Gaines connects with a pitch against Perry Central

“Two very good teams, two good defensive teams. And I’ll tell you what, they made some tremendous plays, and we did too,” said Bluejackets head coach Jerry Chaney. “Our pitching was great, their pitching was great. My hats are off to them. We won the game, but if we’d lost the game, I would have still said my hat is off to them because they deserved to win too. We just got a fortunate break in the last inning and pulled it out.”

Chaney also commended his team’s effort, something they put forth in spades as they pushed through 11 lengthy innings to get the job done.

“They just kept the faith. They kept fighting, they kept going up there to battle,” he said.

A lights-out performance at the mound from Mitchell’s two pitchers, Seitzinger, who threw seven full innings, and Gaines, who took over in relief for extras, was perhaps the key to victory on the night.

The pair allowed just two hits between them, each giving up one in a combined 43 at-bats.

Ben Seitzinger throws a pitch against Perry Central

“I think I have two of the best pitchers in the conference. Obviously, they’re both two of the best players in the conference as well. They’ve been four years starters for me. And, you know, I know it sounds silly, but I wasn’t as nervous as everybody thought. I mean, I don’t need to run out there and tell them to throw strikes, they can throw strikes, they know what they’re doing,” Chaney said of his two top pitchers.

“I mean, Ben Seitzinger knows the game just as well as anybody else and so does Simon Gaines. They know what it takes to get three outs. But those strikes, and even when they fell down in the count, they came back and battled. It was outstanding pitching and defense from both clubs.”

Now, the Bluejackets stand at 4-0 in the PLAC, shifting them to a position that they now hold alone at the top of the mountain. They still have three conference matchups left that they’ll need to win to come away with the PLAC championship, something that slipped away from them last year after a loss to the Commodores, which was their only conference loss of that year.

“Our goals are always the same. Have a winning season, go for the conference, try to win sectionals and turn boys into men we can all be proud of. And we are in the driver’s seat. We’re 4-0, but we can’t let down. Orleans has an outstanding pitcher too, and we still have to play them. And West Washington is a tremendous team as well,” said Chaney. “So it’s not over yet, but we are in the driver’s seat, so we’re going to keep battling.”