Shakamak’s players agree they will need both good hitting and defense to progress in the post-season.
The Lakers (14-7) crushed North Central 13-3 Monday night to win the White River Sectional. They will face Rising Sun (18-6) at 1 p.m. in the second semifinal of the Morristown Regional.
Good defense and hitting will be essential to beating the Shiners, the players said. Sophomore Ethan Burdette said the team must improve its performance at the plate. He said the Lakers have been relying on their D the last few games.
“It’s a pretty good feeling,” he said of the sectional title. “We’re just hoping to make it further than we did last year. I think we’re just as strong as we were last year.”
Shortstop Devin Stienstra agreed with Burdette that the Lakers need to keep playing good defense.
“We’re going to have to put the ball in play a lot,” he said, “and we can’t have any errors at all.”
Draven Cox pointed out the Lakers didn’t have their best performance Monday when they edged Clay City 1-0 in nine innings.
“Clay City was a pretty tough game, but we pulled it out,” Cox said. “We didn’t hit that great, but we got it done.”
The Lakers managed 11 hits against North Central, including five doubles. They made only one error in the two sectional games Monday.
Shakamak coach Todd Gambill agreed with his players.
“We’ve got to step up our game next week and play hard.”
Play of the tourney
Although the Lakers won the sectional, I thought a North Central player turned in the play of the tournament.
The Thunderbirds trailed 7-2 heading into the fourth. Senior catcher Blake Chatman singled to left to open the inning and moved to third base on two wild pitches.
Normally, I don’t think of catchers as stealth players, but Chatman snuck down the third-base line and stole home for North Central’s third run. I must confess I didn’t even see him until he was about 15 feet away from home plate.
“The stolen base at home was unfortunate,” Gambill admitted.
Chatman not only burned Shakamak, he, Adam Walker, and Jacob Pritchard displayed great class. After the trophy presentation, they walked over to congratulate Gambill and the Lakers on their victory.
A look back
I thought Monday’s first game was the best of the WRV Sectional. Shakamak beat the Clay City Eels 1-0 in nine innings.
To use a cliche, it was one of those games where you hate to see either team lose. They both played their hearts out. Although all the players deserve to be complimented for one of the best games I saw this season, I think these five deserve a shoutout:
Hunter Adams, Clay City. As my story noted, the Lakers loaded the bases with two out in the bottom of the fifth. Adams dove to the turf to catch a long fly ball by Devin Stienstra and end the inning. He also made several other fine catches.
Ethan Burdette, Shakamak. The sophomore has been one of the Lakers’ most reliable hitters over the last part of the season. He smacked the two-out double that drove in Shakamak’s only run. Burdette also made a good defensive stop in the third inning. He leaped high to snag a fly by Jacob LaFary and threw to first, almost picking off a runner for a double play.
Carl Miller, Shakamak. Batting in the ninth position Monday, he reached base all four times. In Miller’s final trip, he singled with two outs and scored on Burdette’s double.
Clayton “Buddy” Stone, Clay City. The sophomore pitcher continues to impress. He held the Lakers to zero runs in 62/3 innings of work.
And last, but certainly not least, Levi Webb, Shakamak. He stayed on the mound all nine innings for the Lakers, yielding only three hits and no runs. It was quite a momentous weekend for Webb. He graduated high school and pitched a sectional winner.
LIke the thing in a crypt, the Eels will be back next year. There are no seniors on Clay City’s roster, and coach Larry Shaw said some promising freshmen are poised to join the team next spring. I think area teams had better watch out.
As Shaw said after the game: “The future looks bright for Clay City.”
And, in conclusion,