Mungle find shutdown zone as Stars post 5-1 victory over 2A No.8 Mitchell in county clash

BNL’s Cade Mungle fires a pitch toward the plate during Friday’s battle with Mitchell. Mungle worked five scoreless innings in relief as the Stars stopped the Bluejackets 5-1.

By Justin Sokeland

BEDFORD – The strike zone, even with its technical definition in the Official Baseball Rules, is a fluctuating, fluid, malleable, imaginary place. Defined by the dimensions of home plate and the opinion of the umpire, it’s the ultimate battleground between hurlers and hitters.

Some days, pitchers can’t miss it. Other days, they can’t find it. Nothing is more damaging than a pitcher who dominates that small rectangle with electric stuff, nothing is more frustrating and exasperating than one who consistently misses the target.

Cade Mungle lived in both regions. He was behind a lot of Mitchell batters, he walked a few. But when he located the zone, he was untouchable.

Mungle worked five innings in relief, allowing only one hit, while shutting down the Bluejackets as Bedford North Lawrence posted a 5-1 victory in the annual Lawrence County rivalry battle. After Kline Woodward worked the first two innings and allowed a run, Mungle went the rest of the way and kept the Jackets guessing with his left-handed delivery and location. He threw 80 pitches during his stint, and only half (41) were strikes. But he got 15 outs without allowing any runs.

Mitchell second baseman Kody Earl chases down BNL pinch runner Gavin Pedersen.

“When he can pound the zone and get his changeup over, he’s very effective and tough to hit,” BNL coach Jeff Callahan said. “He has had some trouble finding the zone, and even Major Leaguers have trouble finding it, too. He did a nice job.”

Mitchell (13-5 and ranked No.8 in Class 2A) scored in the first inning, and fidgety, eclectic starter Simon Gaines was smiling and firing, keeping the Stars in check and raising their angst level with each passing inning. BNL (13-6) finally broke through with two runs in the fourth, and Cal Gates blasted the first pitch of the fifth for a monster home run to right, breaking the building tension.

“Once we got the lead, it gave us some confidence,” Callahan said.

It took BNL a while to establish that. Mitchell scored when Gaines ripped a single off Woodward and took second when an errant throw went into the Mitchell dugout. He advanced to third on a ground out and came home on a wild pitch. Meanwhile, the Stars left the bases loaded in the first and third, the latter when Ashton Luman made a great diving catch on a Cam Gates liner to right field.

BNL’s Tate Tanksley had two hits and collected the first RBI in the fourth inning.

In the fourth, Walker Ward started the rally with a single, and pinch runner Reece Goodgame scored the equalizer when Tate Tanksley roped a double to center. With two out, Woodward cracked a go-ahead single to left.

Then came the Gates bomb in the fifth, a mammoth shot past the pine trees behind the fence. That settled down the BNL dugout, as the Stars added another run that frame when Cam Gates singled, stole second and scored on an error. BNL added its final run in the sixth.

“It was a good win,” Callahan said. “This is a big game. Two years ago, they beat us here, and I’m sure the kids were thinking about that. Sometimes you get a little tense. We had some chances early that we didn’t get, but that didn’t weigh on us.”

Trace Rynders, Woodward and Tanksley had two hits each. Mungle gave up a hit to the first batter he faced (Luman) in the third before going into shutdown mode.

Mitchell pitcher Simon Gaines prepares to unleash a pitch. Gaines had five strikeouts.

“We should have gotten a couple of more runs, but his pitchers did a good job of keeping us off balance, had us fooled at the plate,” Mitchell coach Jerry Chaney said. “We’re struggling a little bit, but we’ll get better.”

Gaines, on his way to Wabash because of his ability at shortstop, lasted 4 1/3 innings on the mound and struck out five while allowing seven hits. “He was pitching it well, throwing hard,” Chaney said. “We made a couple of mistakes, and it hurt.”

Mitchell, coming off a key win over West Washington that clinched the PLAC title, couldn’t generate any offense.

“The conference means a lot more to us,” Chaney said. “It’s nice to beat my alma mater, but the kids don’t care about that. They don’t care that I played here, they don’t care that I coached here. It’s just a game to them. They would have liked to have won, but the conference was the bigger game.”

Prior to the game, the Mid-State Officials Association honored BNL with the 2024 Hospitality Award, which includes four $1,000 scholarships for BNL athletes.

BNL will start its Hoosier Hills Conference tournament journey on Monday, visiting Jennings County, while the Bluejackets will tangle with Brownstown on Tuesday.

BNL’s Cal Gates watches the ball sail toward the fence while clubbing a home run in the fifth inning.
BNL’s Maddox Ray races into foul ground to make the catch on a fly ball.
The Mid-State Officials Association award BNL its Hospitality Award.