Luman’s walk-off keeps No. 6 Bluejackets unbeaten in PLAC with 2-1 victory against Orleans

By Noah Dalton

MITCHELL – For the second time in the past week, Mitchell was pushed to extra innings in a Patoka Lake Athletic Conference matchup.

The first time was last Friday, an 11-inning battle against Perry Central. On Thursday, the Bluejackets battled Orleans for eight innings.

The common thread between the two matchups: both were low-scoring, defensive matchups with a final score of 2-1 that Mitchell survived to earn the win, helping them stay unbeaten in PLAC play.

They put the Bulldogs away thanks to a walk-off from Ashton Luman, who stepped to the plate with a runner on second, Kody Earl, and one out in the bottom of the eighth. He began the at-bat with a deep fly ball, just barely dropping outside the foul line in a vacant left field that looked like it could’ve won the game.

The Bluejackets celebrate with Ashton Luman (16) after his walk-off against Orleans

On the next pitch, he drove the ball into a gap in center field, giving Earl enough time to round third and cross home plate for the winning run.

That play, as well as the other run they scored in the bottom of the fifth, via an RBI single from Gibson Glassco, were set up by sacrifice bunts that put runners in scoring position, something Bluejackets’ head coach Jerry Chaney said he has been stressing the importance of to his players for some time, ultimately aiding them against Orleans, as well as in their sectional championship win last year.

“Fundamental baseball. We had three sacrifice bonds here tonight And I’ve been preaching this to the kids forever and if people paid attention last year, that’s how we won the sectional,” he said.

Looking at these two teams on paper before the matchup, many may have expected a more lopsided final result, with Mitchell coming in with a 10-3 overall record and the #6 ranked team in 2A in the state, according to the most recent poll from the IHBCA, and Orleans coming in 0-8, having yet to pick up a win this season.

Bluejackets head coach Jerry Chaney talks to his team between at-bats

The difference maker for the Bulldogs that helped even the odds could be found on the mound, in senior pitcher Ian Hall.

Hall threw seven full innings, giving up just five hits and one earned run, with nine strikeouts, the second most Ks against Mitchell this season aside from their recent 12-1 loss to Seymour.

“Hats off to Orleans and the Hall kid, he pitched his guts out. The team played great defense behind him, and they had a chance to beat us. I mean, we’re supposed to be the conference champs and they didn’t back down one bit, the team that hadn’t won a game all year,” Chaney said. “Of course, in conference, they played everybody tough, especially with Hall at the mound. I think with Hall on the mound they can beat anybody. They’re a good team.”

Pitching has been a strong point for the Bluejackets as well in their conference wins thus far, and their game against Orleans was no exception, with Mitchell once again leaning on seniors Ben Seitzinger and Simon Gaines to get the job done from the hill.

Ben Seitzinger winds up to throw a pitch against Orleans

Seitzinger matched Hall, with seven full innings and over 100 pitches thrown to nearly reach the limit of 120 pitches. He struck out five, allowing five hits and one earned run. Gaines relieved him of his duties in the eighth, striking out three to retire the side.

“I feel like I have to have two of the best pitchers in the conference going for me and we saved them all week so we had him both. If he had to go for 11 or 12 innings we were prepared,” Chaney said.

“I had a scenario in my mind where this could go eight or nine innings with Hall on the hill and Ben because they’ve both been so dominant. They could go Hall for 120 (pitches) and we had Ben for 120 and we had Simon for 120, if we had to, we were going to do it. But the conference is what matters and that was one of our goals at the beginning of the season. So, we’ve just gotta keep pushing on and keep moving. But, I’m proud of my boys, outstanding team effort.”

Simon Gaines fields a hopper against Orleans

Now at 5-0 in PLAC games, Mitchell has secured at least a tie for first place with just one conference game remaining, a May 2 matchup against West Washington.

“Depending on who wins out, things like that I think we clinched a tie for the conference, but we’d like to win it all out, win the whole thing and prove that we can play better. But again, West Washington is a well-coached team and they’ve got two good pitchers as well. So, we’re gonna have to get some timely hits and quit leaving people on base,” said Chaney.

“I don’t know how many were left on tonight. I mean, in the first two innings we left six on, I believe. We probably left 11 or 12, I don’t know I’m just going through my mind there. We left a lot of runners on, so we got to get them on, Get them over. And knock them in and take care of this, but very proud of my team.: