Carroll sophomore pitcher Jake Shirk received a Gatorade ice bath from his teammates as a reward for his complete-game 3-1 victory over Northrop in the Class 4A Sectional final Monday afternoon at Carroll.
The seniors on the Chargers got something even better: an IHSAA sectional championship trophy.
Six Carroll seniors have had a hand in 81 wins over four seasons, and three of them have earned Division I scholarships – one of whom may give that up if is he is selected in the Major League draft next week. The upperclassmen have carried on the program’s tradition that includes state titles in 2010 and 2011 and five straight sectional championships from 2010-14.
But the seniors saw each of their three previous seasons end by late May, with just one postseason win and no sectional titles.
“You look around and everyone is out here taking pictures, it’s a good feeling,” said senior shortstop Langston Ginder, who has been around the program since he could pick up a baseball because his father, Dave, is the Chargers’ head coach. “It feels good to get that underneath our belts, especially our senior year at Carroll.
“Since I was little I’ve been a part of the team, and since I was a freshman we’ve always had good teams, we’ve just never been able to finish it. We had a good group of seniors this year, especially this year. It’s been a good ending so far. I’d like to see it continue to happen and see some more wins because obviously I want to keep playing.”
Carroll (22-7) will keep playing and will face (rival Homestead OR South Side) at 1 p.m. Saturday in the second game of the Lafayette Jefferson regional.
“This is the biggest thing we had to work for,” said senior catcher Hayden Jones, who has committed to Mississippi State but may have another option if he is drafted by a Major League team. “Just to accomplish this is a big stepping stone for us, and that’s the biggest thing that we wanted to do as a team. Now it’s just more motivation to get us ready for regionals.”
The seniors can thank a sophomore for allowing them to keep playing. After senior ace Riley Perlich led the Chargers to a 9-2 win over Snider in Friday’s semifinal, Shirk found out that night he would get the ball at noon Monday.
Shirk said he stuck with his usual routine over the weekend and then went out and gave up a run in the first inning, but gave up just four hits while striking out six.
“I just took it slow, I just pitched my game and just did what I do,” Shirk said. “I couldn’t find my changeup, but my curveball was working and my fastball I threw with velocity on that, so that was working for me.”
The Bruins (20-9) tied the game 1-1 in the bottom of the first on a double by Jack Hayden and an RBI-single from Gavin Schoenle, but they had just one runner in scoring position over the final six innings.
“He had us off-balance; he threw a heck of a game,” Northrop coach Matt Brumbaugh said. “He was getting both the fastball and breaking pitch over for strikes and that’s huge. Any opportunity we had we had to try to cash in, and we made a few mistakes.”
Brumbaugh’s starter, senior Marcus Bell, was nearly as effective, going seven innings and giving up six hits and three runs, the first of which was unearned.
The Chargers took advantage of two Northrop errors and an RBI-single by Perlich to go up 1-0 in the first, but they also left the bases loaded.
Carroll went up 2-1 in the third when Shirk walked, and then courtesy runner Connor Starke scored on Micah Fretz’s double off the fence in center.
Nathan Fish and Shirk opened the fifth with back-to-back singles and Fish and Starke (again pinch-running) moved up on a double steal. Fish then made it 3-1 when he broke for home after Bryce Ginder’s grounder to third was thrown to first.
Two innings later, the Chargers began a celebration that was four years in the making.
“I’ve known this group for a long, long time, which makes it special,” said Dave Ginder, who coached many of the players before high school as coach of Langston’s travel team. “Just to know that we’ve been right there over the last few years and to get it done this week is really special.
“Today was just a great baseball game, and fortunately we came out on top. I’m just proud of our kids and the senior class has worked really hard and put a lot of time and energy into our program, so I’m really proud of them.”