DECATUR – In the cold of December it would have been hard to imagine such a dogpile in June.
But there the Bishop Dwenger baseball players were Saturday night, piling on top of one another along the first base line, celebrating the school’s first regional title since any of them were born.
The Saints defeated Yorktown 11-7 to claim the Class 3A Bellmont Regional, the second regional title in school history and first since 1995. Dwenger advances to the semistate, which will be played next Saturday at either Kokomo or Plymouth.
Final Four, first-year Dwenger coach Jason Garrett said. What a blessing.
And one Garrett may have had trouble fathoming when he gathered his players months ago to set not only new goals, but a new attitude.
First of all, it’s due to the kids who bought in, Garrett said. Back in December, we decided we wanted to approach things in a way that we would play gritty, we’d play hard, we’d take ’em one at a time, we’d be competitive and try to put Dwenger baseball on the map.They bought into that. They’ve overcome a lot of adversity. I’m just proud of them.
Dwenger (19-11) used a little bit of everything, and everyone, to win the regional.
Earlier Saturday, the Saints rallied late and then hung on to defeat defending 3A state champ Norwell 11-9. The championship game was not much different.
The Saints built an 8-2 lead after three innings, using a kitchen-sink attack that included everything from two-run singles from Noah Freimuth and Cody Miller to Dalton O’Boyle’s suicide squeeze bunt.
Yorktown (17-13), however, took advantage of a balk in the top of the fourth by starter Dan Connolly to cut the lead to 8-6.
The Tigers loaded the bases with two outs, but the Saints appeared to get out of the inning unscathed when Clay Dungan popped out to short. But Connolly had been called for a balk on the pitch, which brought in a run. Dungan then lined the next pitch to the left-field corner for a two-run double. Nathan Phillips singled off reliever Alex Schenkeland and the Saints’ cushion was only two runs.
For the Saints, though, they’d been through a lot worse this season.
They don’t get shook by that, Garrett said. We’ve been in those situations so many times. It’s what we talk a lot about. Dan kept us in it. It’s the next guy in, the next guy up. It’s just a great feeling to know they go out there and they trust each other.
The next guy up was Schenkel, who pitched the next 2 1/3 innings and gave up just one run. He was helped by three unearned runs the Saints added in the fourth and fifth to build an 11-6 lead. After giving up a run in the top of the seventh, Schenkel gave way to O’Boyle to get the final three outs.
This means a lot to everybody, Schenkel said. It’s just a great feeling.