Friends turned foes
SOUTH BEND — Carson Husmann and Nathan Jones have been friends forever.
In fact, Husmann hosted Jones at the former’s graduation party Sunday night.
A day later, the South Central slugger hit a home run off LaCrosse’s Jones in an all-La Porte County Class A Sectional final Monday, a solo shot in the top of the first inning down the left-field line that ignited S.C.’s offense.
An inning later, the Satellites pounced on a bevy of walks and two errors, resulting in a nine-run frame that carried South Central to its fourth consecutive sectional crown with a 13-3, five-inning drubbing of the county neighbor Tigers at South Bend Clay.
“Next time I see Nathan we won’t be talking about this,” Husmann said. “It’ll just be small talk here and there. We’re good friends.
“This never gets old, winning the sectional, but we want that regional now. So we’re on to the next thing. It was an awesome, well-played game.”
The Satellites (21-6) took command by having all nine players score in the second. Amazingly, they had only one hit in the inning.
Trent Olling led off with a double to deep center. Otherwise, S.C. capitalized on six walks, including two intentional base on balls, and a pair of errors by the Tigers (4-18). That made it 11-0.
Olling scored on shortstop Zach Brust’s error, then Husmann and Kyle Schmack were each given free passes to load the bases with no outs. Evan Walters touched home on a wild pitch, and B.J. Intagliata was hit by a pitch to force home a run. Karson Bailey and Wes Battleday each drew bases-loaded walks. Intagliata and Bailey then scored on first baseman Ian Doms’ throwing error home. Battleday touched home on a wild pitch, and Walters closed the scoring with an RBI groundout to third.
“It’s just their mindset, their approach,” S.C. coach Ryan Kruszka said. “Don’t get caught up in too much. You still have to see what the strike zone is behind the plate. For our guys to go out and really not chase balls and really take the game as it comes, that’s a good thing for them to do. And it shows a lot of maturity and some of the mindset they have going into the box.”
LaCrosse surrendered 13 walks.
“You can’t give up free bases,” Tigers coach Chris McGowen said. “Here the last couple of weeks we’ve actually been able to throw strikes, but then today what plagued us early in the season came back to bite us here. But give South Central all the credit.”
Satellites right-hander Trent Smoker went the distance. He gave up three runs on five hits, finishing with eight strikeouts and one walk. Smoker (5-3) worked out of a first-and-second, one-out jam in the first and didn’t let LaCrosse score until the fourth.
“He did a great job on the mound,” Kruszka said. “He came in, he threw strikes, he kept the ball down. He got ahead. At first, he was a little bit up, but then we had a couple chats with coach (Jarad) Miller about working down and staying down. Once you start getting out to a lead, we just have to throw strikes.”
S.C. staked Smoker to a 2-0 first-inning lead. Husmann smacked his solo home run, and Battleday had a bases-loaded walk.
“I talked to Nathan the other day and he’s like, ‘Man, I’m not throwing you anything, so don’t be looking for anything,’” Husmann said of his homer. “So I was like, ‘Alright.’ The first pitch was a curveball over the middle of the plate, then I took it. Then I was like, ‘Alright, so he is going to pitch to me.’ So then, they just threw me a bunch of curveballs, and then, finally I sat back long enough on one. That was it. It felt good right off the bat.”
Trailing 13-1, the Tigers didn’t give up and tried to claw back in their last at-bat in the fifth. Kaleb Frazier ripped an RBI double to center, his second hit, while Bradley Tucker followed with an RBI single to left as LaCrosse had three straight hits.
Frazier also did an admirable job pitching. He threw the last two scoreless innings, allowing just one hit with four strikeouts and a pair of walks.
Jones took the loss, surrendering nine runs on three hits in one-plus inning. He fanned two and walked seven.
Olling finished 2-for-4 with two doubles and a pair of RBI, and Battleday reached all four times, walking three times, with two RBI. Husmann, Smoker and Schmack all walked twice, while Intagliata reached three times, including singling and walking.
“This is an awesome experience,” Olling said of hoisting another sectional trophy. “The ball just looked like a watermelon. It felt great. Both of my doubles were just fastballs right down the middle, they kind of left them up right there. I took advantage of it.”
Jones and Frazier both went 2-of-3 to pace the Tigers.
LaCrosse, who doubled its win total with two victories in the sectional, graduates four seniors, Jones, Frazier, Tucker and James McKean.
“I’m proud of my seniors,” McGowen said. “I’m going to miss those guys. They’ve been a big part of LaCrosse baseball now for four years. My message to them was, ‘Don’t be discouraged, you’ve got graduation on Friday. You’ve got the rest of your lives.’”
S.C. faces Fremont in the four-team South Bend Washington Regional on Saturday at Four Winds Field, home of the South Bend Cubs.
“I’m glad with the way they came out, their enthusiasm,” Kruszka said. “I’m really proud of them, especially the seniors, and everything they do, and the things they’re passing down to the younger guys. This is their fourth straight. That’s an impressive feat.”
Class A South Bend Career Academy Sectional
South Central 13, LaCrosse 3 (5 innings)
The Satellites’ Trent Olling went 2-for-4 with two doubles and a pair of RBI.