INDIANAPOLIS – The IHSAA knew what it was doing when it made the Class 3A state baseball championship between Norwell and Jasper as the lone contest Friday at Victory Field.
This was the marquee game, thats what they have been telling us, and thats why they gave us the Friday night game, Norwell senior third baseman Luke Hunter said after the Knights 2-1 win. It was their third 3A state crown in the last decade. It was a big game, and everybody knew it was going to happen.
Jasper (32-4), from Dubois County in southern Indiana, came into the game ranked No. 1, while Norwell (33-3) was No. 3.
The three other state championship games will be played today.
Theres never been a better feeling in my life, said Norwell junior shortstop Jonah Patten, who drove in both runs. Knowing the IHSAA gave us the honor of being the showcase game means the world to Norwell, and we are glad that we got after it tonight.
Norwell senior Josh VanMeter, a fifth-round draft pick of the San Diego Padres, outdueled Jasper senior Nick Gobert in a battle of right-handers.
VanMeter gave up three hits and one unearned run. He struck out eight and walked three.
He is the best baseball player in the state in my mind, Norwell coach Andy McClain said. He got drafted as a shortstop, but he has been tremendous on the mound because of his heart and desire. He was huge for us tonight.
He just tried to hit locations and move the ball around, throw his breaking ball and just be a pitcher.
Gobert gave up six hits in five innings, with two earned runs. He struck out four and walked two. Mark Geisler pitched a scoreless sixth for the Wildcats.
VanMeter (14-1) came into the game with a 1.39 ERA, while Gobert (9-1) was at 0.81.
VanMeter also scored both Norwell runs, each on RBI hits by Patten, a single in the third inning and a double in the fifth.
I dont want to take any of the credit, Patten said. I went out there and did my job, and I wanted to give those 10 seniors going out a ring on their finger.
The game was a far cry from the 13-12 loss for the Knights to Jasper in the 3A state title game in 2006.
Norwell now has state championships in 2003, 2007 and 2013.
They got us last time, and I know our kids were fired up, said McClain, who is in his first year as coach. It is two good baseball communities, thats why they had us here on a Friday night as the only game. It was nice to come out on top this time.
These kids have worked hard from Day 1. It is really cool to set a goal and know you can probably get it done if you can play together and work together.
The Knights took a 2-1 lead in the fifth when Patten knocked in VanMeter with a double. Norwell tied the score at 1 on an RBI single by Patten.
Jasper scored first, getting a run in the second inning on a hit, an error, passed ball and RBI groundout to go up 1-0.
It could have been 2-0, but Patten threw out a baserunner at home.
We werent scared to be in a (low-scoring) battle because we knew our pitcher was better than theirs, senior first baseman Tailur Szarenski said. We were down early, and they had all the momentum. We came back, and we scored two runs today, thats all that mattered.
We have had some close games all the way through the tournament and gut-wrenching games that we pulled out, and it is something we will remember for the rest of our lives.