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Connersville baseball season ends in heartbreaking 5-4 loss

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Five Connersville High School seniors had their baseball careers come to an end Thursday night in thequarterfinalround of the Class 4A Sectional 9 tournament at Pendleton Heights High School. The Spartans were defeated by Anderson 5-4. From left: Dylan Logan, Maxwell Crank, Bryce Cloyd, Brett Gray and Colton Massey.
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Connersville catcher Landon Cerqua, left, steadies himself for a play at the plate in Thursday’s sectional contest against Anderson’s Mike Stewart (34). Cerqua applied the tag in time and Stewart was out on the play. Cerqua and the Spartans fell to the Indians, 5-4.
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Connersville’s Damon Huffman delivers a pitch in the second inning Thursday in the quarterfinal round of the Class 4A Sectional 9 tournament at Pendleton Heights High School. Huffman tossed 2.2 innings for the Spartans in the game.

By GRADY TATE - gtate@newsexaminer.com

PENDLETON — Time and again, against Anderson in the Class 4A Sectional 9 tournament on Thursday, the Connersville High School baseball team appeared to have the answer to ending a sectional drought that has dragged on for three years.

Despite committing two errors, hitting five batters and issuing five walks, the Spartans carried a precarious 4-3 lead heading into the bottom of the seventh in quarterfinal action at Pendleton Heights High School.

Sadly for the Spartans, the lead didn’t hold, and the postseason swoon continues.

Cameron Pratt and Mike Stewart both reached base and found their way home in Anderson’s final at-bat, Stewart crossing the plate on a walk-off single by Colton Eldridge, allowing the Indians to advance to the semifinal round with a 5-4 victory.

“Too many times this has happened to us this year,” Connersville head coach Michael Thompson said, afterward. “We take a lead into the seventh inning, and we’re just not able to close the door.

“Despite that, I’m still leaning on the positive that we played very well today. Things didn’t go our way in that last inning, as we had a couple of critical walks, but to be in that position tells me that we’ve come a long way this season. I am very proud of this group, particularly of these seniors.”

Connersville trailed 1-0 after two innings, but both Bryce Cloyd and Dylan Logan erased the deficit, each of them scoring in the third.

Anderson re-claimed the lead in the bottom of the third with two runs of its own, and in the top of the fifth, the back-and-forth contest continued, as Cody Friend (double) and Colton Massey (single) reached base and wound up scoring to give CHS the 4-3 advantage.

There would be one more lead switch, however.

“Winners know how to win,” Thompson said. “These kids have not been in this position before. Now, we’ve gotten ourselves to the point where we can have these opportunities, so the next step is to learn from this and find ways to finish these games off.”

Connersville struggled on the mound throughout the game, three hit batters and a pair of walks contributing to the two-run third inning for the Indians. Then, in the final frame, another hit batter and two walks wound up setting the stage for the game-winner from Eldridge.

Thompson didn’t shy away from the problems on the hill.

“We have not pitched particularly well in the past couple of weeks,” he said. “That continued tonight with too many walks and too many hit batsmen. We did enough at the plate tonight to stay in the game, but our pitching struggled.”

Massey and Friend both finished with two hits for the Spartans, each of them collecting a double in the process.

Massey was one of five seniors playing in his final game wearing the CHS uniform. The others were Logan, Cloyd, Max Crank and Brett Gray. Foreign exchange student Rintaro Ura also played his final game.

“It’s difficult to say too much to them today, being that this is so fresh,” Thompson said about addressing his upperclassmen following the loss. “But I could not be more proud of the effort that they’ve put into this program.

“They all bought in with me coming in here for my first year, and I really wish I had them for a couple more years. I’ve said it before that this might be one of the best group of seniors I have ever had.

“Right now, it’s tough, but we all need to be proud of where we’ve come this year.”

 

2019 IHSAA CLASS 4A SECTIONAL 9 BASEBALL

INDIANS 5, SPARTANS 4

(at Pendleton Heights High School)

Connersville 002 020 0 — 4 8 2

Anderson 012 000 2 — 5 6 2

WP: Tristen Brooks 

LP: Brett Gray

Connersville (10-15) — Cody Friend 2-3, Dylan Logan 1-4, Colton Massey 2-3, Max Crank 1-4, Brett Gray 1-4, Rintaro Ura 0-3, Gabe Morris 0-2, Landon Cerqua 0-3, Bryce Cloyd 1-3, Damien Bowling 0-0, Damon Huffman 0-0. TOTALS 8-29 (.276).

Anderson (16-10) — Cameron Mcglothlin 1-4, Brayden Waymire 1-1, Cameron Pratt 1-3, Mike Stewart 0-3, Isaiah Allen 0-2, Kole Johnson 0-2, Colton Eldridge 2-2, Gavin Barron 1-3, Braden Zirkle, Tristen Brooks 0-1, Caleb Richardson 0-0. TOTALS 6-23 (.261).

2B — Connersville 2 (Friend, Massey). RBI — Connersville 2 (Friend, Massey), Anderson 5 (Johnson 2, Eldridge 2, Barron 1). Runs — Connersville 4 (Friend, Logan, Massey, Cloyd), Anderson 5 (Stewart 2, Waymire, Pratt, Johnson). Caught stealing — Anderson 1 (Eldridge). Sacrifice — Anderson 1 (Waymire). Hit by pitch — Anderson 5 (Waymire 2, Johnson 2, Eldridge 1). Base on balls — Connersville 3 (Friend, Massey, Morris), Anderson 5 (Allen 2, Pratt, Stewart, Eldridge). Strike out — Connersville 6 (Crank 2, Cerqua 2, Gray, Morris), Anderson 3 (Barron, Zirkle, Brooks). Errors — Connersville 2 (Bowling, Gray), Anderson 2 (Waymire, Richardson). Left on base – Connersville 7, Anderson 7.