Using small ball to power their offense along with timely pitching from district tournament MVP Devin Thrain and all-tournament team closer Brady Hendrix, the Summit Spartans (15-8) held on to win the District 12-4A championship 10-8 against the Ravenwood Raptors (22-14) at Ravenwood on Tuesday night.
“We have goals we set out (to accomplish) each year, and we crossed off the first one,” said Summit head coach Chad Kirby. “We think our district is one of the best districts in the state. We put it together at the right time.”
“The boys really played hard throughout this whole week,” said Ravenwood head coach Nico Gregoli. “We have been pretty shorthanded with sickness. To get down to the championship with the go ahead run in the batter’s box is a real testament to our team.”
“This is what the whole team worked for,” said Summit senior starting pitcher Devin Thrain, a Vol State commit. “We came all this way from the start of school in August, and this has been a heck of a run.”
In the top of the first inning, Summit got on the board first with a ball put in play by junior CJ Dugan with the bases loaded, scoring the runner from third to go up 1-0.
Ravenwood answered in the bottom of the first with an RBI single by senior Ball State commit Blake Bevis. Two runs scored on a throwing error to grab the advantage 3-1.
Summit cut into the Ravenwood lead in the top of the second inning, scoring a run on a rundown at second with senior Drew Plummer breaking for the plate 3-2.
The Raptors answered in the bottom of the second, scoring a run on an error, a wild pitch, and a runner from third scoring on a groundout by junior Conor Paul to stretch their lead to 6-2.
Summit narrowed Ravenwood’s lead on another rundown, scoring a runner from third in the top of the third inning to cut the lead to 6-3.
Summit’s Thrain retired the side in order with a groundout, strikeout, and flyout in the bottom of the third.
In the top of the fourth, Summit inched closer, cutting the deficit to 6-5 on RBI singles from Thrain and senior JR Dippold.
“We have been pretty offensive all year long,” said Kirby. “Ravenwood has more of the power-type guys, but we have some guys that put the barrel on it and get it through some holes. They battle at the plate and don’t quit.”
Summit starter Thrain struck out the side in the bottom of the fourth inning as the scored remained at 6-5, but then the Spartans tied the game at six on a wild pitch in the top of the fifth inning 6-6.
Summit’s Thrain continued to stay in his groove, recording two strikeouts and forcing a pop out to third as the game stayed tied at six in the bottom of the fifth inning.
“Devin was great,” said Kirby. “If we had played a little better on defense, he probably would not have given up six. He just battled his butt off and is a tough kid.”
In the top of the sixth inning, the Spartans added three runs. A sac bunt by junior Jace Kirby plated two runs due to a throwing error by Ravenwood. An RBI single by CJ Dugan helped Summit grab the lead 9-6.
The Raptors could not take advantage of a sixth inning walk, leaving the runner stranded as Summit junior reliever Brady Hendrix closed out the frame with a groundout to first.
In the top of the seventh inning, Jace Kirby tacked on an insurance run for the Spartans on a RBI double to increase the Summit margin to 10-6.
“We needed it tonight,” said Thrain. “Our offense has come through all year.”
Ravenwood battled back in the bottom of the seventh with a two-run home run by district tournament team member Blake Bevis to cut the Spartans advantage to 10-8.
The Raptors brought the go ahead run to the plate after a single by junior JP Price and a hit-by-pitch of all-tournament team member Andrew Dudas. However, Hendrix struck out the next batter, completing the save for Summit as they clinched the District 12-4A title 10-8.
“Brady is Brady,” said Kirby. “We have full confidence in him.”
“Brady has been unbelievable all year,” said Thrain. “He is an absolute beast of a pitcher and has been clutch in all of our games.”
“It is a really tough spot because Brady is an all-district closer,” said Gregoli. “Brady has been tough to manufacture runs this entire year.
“Blake is a player of the year for a reason,” continued Gregoli. “He showed why in this tournament, pitching well against Independence, tallying three home runs, and driving in nine (this week).”
Both of these teams will play in the region tournament next Monday.
“We plan on showing up and playing Ravenwood baseball,” said Gregoli. “We will need a good effort from our team on Monday night.”
“At this point of the year, we are just trying to win a game,” Kirby. “If it is ugly, it is ugly. If it is pretty, it is pretty. You just try to win.”