Sullivan walks it off to beat Mitchell 7-6, advancing in sectional

By Noah Dalton

SULLIVAN – Monday afternoon’s second-round sectional matchup between Mitchell and Sullivan went down to the wire, ultimately ending in a walk-off victory for the Golden Arrows, who beat the Bluejackets 7-6 to reach the championship game.

Sullivan entered the bottom of the seventh inning trailing by one run. First to the plate was freshman Zane Abbott, who singled on a line drive to center field. With the tying run on first, Mitchell recorded two straight outs, but Abbott was able to advance to second on a groundout by Marcus Roshel.

With two outs and a runner now in scoring position, Hunter Mason, the next to bat for the Golden Arrows, hit another single, moving Abbott to third and landing himself on first.

This put the Bluejackets in a peculiar position, with Sullivan’s Jaden Norris, who had mashed two RBI doubles in three plate appearances on the day, the next to hit.

Mitchell elected to intentionally walk Norris, instead electing to face Ty Hamilton, who they’d held without a hit to that point.

After watching the first pitch, Hamilton made contact with the next, slamming a line drive into left field that gave way for Abbott and pinch-runner Brady Drury to score, earning the victory for the Golden Arrows.

Chaney said the decision to send Norris to first was made by the coaching staff to avoid facing a hitter who’d had success against them throughout the game.

“We made some mistakes. Even at the end, the coaching staff felt that we should have put the guy on, he’d hit two doubles before that,” Chaney said. “We made some mistakes early on in the game as a team, but you know, it comes down to one run, Sullivan is a really good baseball team.”

The Bluejackets got on the board in the top of the first inning, starting off the frame with back-to-back hits from Simon Gaines, who doubled in the lead-off spot, and AJ Sarver, who singled to left field to bring him home.

Simon Gaines drives a pitch against Sullivan. Gaines finished with one hit and one RBI against the Golden Arrows

Norris hit his first of two doubles in the bottom of the first with runners on second to pick up an RBI and tie up the score. With the bags loaded after a walk in the next at-bat, Spencer Hanks laid a bunt that gave way for a run to score from third, giving them the early advantage.

After a few shutout innings from both sides, Mitchell were able to grab the lead back in the fourth inning, thanks to some patient at-bats and a few mistakes from Sullivan.

Senior Will Brooks assumed the mound for the Golden Arrows at the start of this game and had a strong showing after allowing the two early knocks, only allowing one additional base hit and striking out four until the fourth, where he walked or hit four straight batters with pitches, forcing in two runs to give the Bluejackets a 3-2 lead.

Sullivan’s Will Brooks struck out six in 4.2 innings on the hill

After Mitchell recorded three straight outs in the bottom of the frame, Brooks picked up two straight outs, including a fifth K to begin the next inning, but walked two more batters, bringing Sullivan to make a pitching change, calling on Norris to take over.

In his first at-bat at the mound, one of Norris’ pitches missed the mark, sailing past catcher Max Mckinley, allowing time for two Bluejackets, Ethan Turner and Kody Earl, to hustle home from third and second base, giving them a 5-2 lead.

Unfortunately for Mitchell, they encountered their own struggles in the bottom of the frame.

After a single to lead off the inning from Ryder Pinkston, a wild pitch moved him up to second in the next at-bat, before the Bluejackets picked up their first out.

In the next two at-bats, Mitchell starter Ben Seitzinger picked up two straight strikeouts that could’ve ended the inning, but the last strike on each was dropped, which loaded up the bases for Sullivan.

Mitchell’s Ben Seitzinger struck out nine, giving up three earned runs during a complete game against Sullivan

This set up a sacrifice fly from the next batter, Hunter Mason, scoring a run from third and advancing the other two runners forward. They picked up another run during the next attempt on a wild pitch, which gave way for Marcus Roshel to score from third, eventually evening up the score courtesy of Norris’ second run-scoring double of the night.

“We had some mistakes. I’m not going to pin that on any player or anything like that when we made some mistakes and we gave up too many outs in that inning and they were able to come back and tighten it up and change the momentum,” Chaney said.

It was three-up and three-down for each side in the sixth inning, with the Bluejackets stepping into the box with one last chance to potentially break the tie in regulation.

Seitzinger was the lead-off hitter for Mitchell, singling on a ground ball up the middle. The next two tries for Mitchell amounted to consecutive outs, though pinch-runner Gavin Martin was able to steal second during that time to reach scoring position.

Next to bat was Turner, who slammed a hard ground ball that the Golden Arrows committed an error attempting to field. After the ball was fumbled they attempted to throw Turner out at first, but were too late.

As this was happening, Martin had already crossed third base and was headed home, eventually beating the throw to score, giving the Bluejackets a one-run lead heading into the bottom of the seventh before Hamilton’s game-winning hit.

Mitchell’s Gavin Martin and Kody Earl celebrate after Martin’s run scored in the seventh inning

“Ethan put the bat on the ball and I remember that I already knew in my mind that I was sending him, and I could’ve looked bad on that, but I was sending him all the way because I knew it was going to be a bang-bang play and they weren’t going to hold it, so it was an aggressive play from us,” said Chaney.

“That should have been enough to win the game but it wasn’t, and it’s unfortunate. It comes down to Sullivan making plays, I mean their pitcher made a couple of great plays, their third baseman, he caught that line drive, that was fantastic. So, in some ways, or a lot of ways, you have to tip your hat to them too.”

This loss ends the 2023-24 season for the Bluejackets, finishing with a final record of 18-7. It also marks the last time this year’s senior group, which includes nine players, will suit up for Mitchell.

Ethan Turner squares up for a swing against Sullivan. Turner picked up one hit and batted in a run in the team’s sectional loss

Chaney said this group, which played a key role in the program’s success over the past four seasons where the team went 73-37-1, won two Patoka Lake Athletic Conference championships, as well as a sectional and regional crown, is a special one that he and the other coaches have grown to be very proud of.

“I started most of them, five or six as freshmen, and, you know, they’ve grown from little boys, goofy little freshmen, to men who I can sit and talk for hours. My wife and I had him over to our house a couple of weeks ago and they sat and talked with us like like men. I mean, so they’re special,” he said.

“They mean a lot and I hope I hope our coaching staff and myself mean a lot to them and five years from now, when we come back and say ‘Hey coach, how you doing? I’m married with kids, and doing well,’ that’s what it’s all about. We don’t coach for the money. We don’t coach for the wins and losses. We like to win, but we really like to build those relationships with those kids and I think that’s what makes it so hard because we have these relationships with the kids and we love them. I mean, I love them, win, lose or draw. A few weeks ago one of my administrators said ‘So you’re proud of them?’ And I said ‘I’m always proud of them’, even when they mess up, I’m still proud of them.”