South Adams has been one of the best 2A baseball teams in Indiana this season, piling up 25 wins and winning its last seven games by an average of more than seven runs.
One of the only teams they were unable to beat during the regular season was Adams Central, which defeated South Adams on May 10.
The No. 2 Starfires got their revenge for that rare defeat Thursday, ending the Flying Jets' season with a 7-1 victory in a sectional quarterfinal matchup at Adams Central behind a typically excellent performance on the mound from Grant Besser and a Joe Stuber home run.
"This is one that we've had on our calendar for a couple weeks now," South Adams coach Brad Buckingham said. "Being a county rival, conference rival, it was a big one. It's always a heated game, it's always an emotional game. It's one we've been thinking a lot about, so we're happy and fortunate to have it as a win."
It helped that the Starfires had Besser on the mound. The last time the left-hander pitched, he had one of the best starts in state history, throwing a no-hitter against Northeastern and striking out 21. He wasn't that dominant Thursday, but he was plenty good enough, pitching a complete game and giving up just four hits while whiffing 12.
The junior struck out the first three hitters he faced to set the tone and got the win, running his record to 8-0 this season. He mixed an often-overpowering fastball with a sharp curve that he was able to throw for strikes in any count.
"We came in feeling like, if we're pitching our best, throwing our best, we feel like we've got a good shot to win," Buckingham said. "I'm kind of spoiled coaching (Besser). He does a nice job on the mound. He did pretty much what he normally does, but he's a hard worker so he deserves everything he gets out there."
Besser is also one of South Adams' best hitters, entering the game with a .494 batting average, and he helped his own cause in the first with a leadoff single off Adams Central starter Kevin Brown. Two batters later, Stuber gave his team the only runs it would need with a booming home run well over the fence in left. It was Stuber's third homer of the season and the start of a huge day for him.
"I was looking for a fastball and I got one the first pitch," Stuber said of his home run. "It was like one of the only (fastballs) I saw all day. After that he threw curves. I'm just glad I got a fastball and tried to take a good cut and it worked."
The second baseman also doubled and scored in the third and then broke the game open with a bases-loaded double in the sixth that scored two, running Stuber's RBI total to four.
The home run and the first double came off Brown. The Jets (16-8) starter had beaten South Adams in the teams' first matchup, but found the going much tougher Thursday. The junior right-hander pitched 5 2/3 innings and all seven runs were charged to him. He struck out five and took just his second loss of the season.
The Starfires advance to face Canterbury (4-13) on Saturday. South Adams beat the Cavaliers 10-0 on April 10.