Kings of Spring

May 6, 2019

UNION MILLS — Based on the lopsided 20-4 score, it’s easy to assume, oh, ho hum, another South Central title in its Spring Classic baseball tournament.

Au contraire.

Recent history shows the outcome hasn’t been a foregone conclusion for the Satellites, whose five-inning pasting of Hammond Academy on Saturday marked just the second time they’ve claimed the hardware in coach Ryan Kruszka’s seven years.

“When Washington (Township) was in it, they always had our number,” Kruszka said. “When we played (Hammond Academy) three years ago, they were 18-4. It’s nice to keep the tradition, the history. When coach (Bob) Schellinger was here, you had to be a state finals umpire to do this game. I was like, whoa. We always have goals. No. 1, the conference championship, No. 2, the Spring Classic, No. 3 the conference tournament championship, No. 4, the sectional and hopefully beyond. It’s nice to be able to check off another box and put more numbers in the school.”

The final was decided in an 18-batter S.C. first inning when it scored 12 runs. The first nine hitters reached, with four walks and a hit batter included. Carson Husmann, Kyle Schmack, Trent Smoker and Karsen Bailey (two singles) all scored twice in the marathon frame with Smoker’s single and double knocking in three runs. Brant Popplewell also picked up two RBI singles as Kruszka quickly went to his bench and stopped taking extra bases on the undermanned Hawks.

“I usually go 10 runs. That’s always been my philosophy,” he said. “I think in a situation like that, I just want our guys to work on their game. I like to see what they do in situations if I don’t say anything. I saw we had some things to work on, even in that. We had a guy leaving early on a fly ball. What are you doing? There are always things we can work on in any game.”

Popplewell later added another run-producing hit and Wes Battleday had the biggest blow of the game with a third-inning grand slam.

“I think it’s always a goal to come out and win this,” Battleday said. “I think most of it is challenging yourself, like seeing how many times we can all hit the ball.”

Todd Snyder threw his first varsity innings, allowing a run over three frames with Trent Olling and Eli Bules finishing up.

“Todd threw well,” Kruszka said. “I like to see young guys come out and do things, learn, to be able to stop the game and teach them playing in a varsity atmosphere. I think our older guys do that well, too. They pull guys aside, telling them what they did.”

South Central has won nine in a row heading into today’s game with Boone Grove to clinch the outright round-robin title in the Porter County Conference.

“I think we’re doing good right now,” Battleday said. “We’ve all been hitting the ball well, we’re coming up good defensively, the pitching’s been good. I like where we’re at. I think we have a lot of potential in the sectional and then to keep going on and progressing.”

The Satellites (13-4) overcame three deficits and six errors to down Victory Christian, last year’s surprise champion, in the morning game, 9-6, before Hammond Academy topped Westville 5-4. VCA defeated the Blackhawks 9-2 in the consolation game.

“It was good to see us battle back,” Kruszka said. “Victory’s Christian’s a good team and we know they love to come out. Westville is right down the road and Hammond Academy was set in before I was A.D. If guys want to stay in it, I don’t want to tell them no.”

South Central 20, Hammond Academy 4 (5 innings)

Wes Battleday hit a grand slam.