Reclaiming the throne: Cougars top Bulldogs for program’s 6th sectional title


Back when snow covered the diamond, first-year Trinity Lutheran head baseball coach Benjamin Kleber laid out his expectations to his team.

Despite bringing back just five regular varsity starters — including one returning senior — Kleber expected the Cougars to bring home a sectional championship in May, and compete for a regional crown in June.

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Those preseason expectations never changed during the team’s ups and downs this spring; like when Trinity started 2-5, or when the Cougars dropped its final two games going into the postseason.

On Memorial Day, the Cougars came ready for the grand prize.

The Cougars scored six runs in the fourth inning en route to a 7-3 Sectional 61 Championship win over Orleans Monday at West Washington High School.

The title is the third for the Cougars (12-11) in four years and sixth overall.

“It means everything,” Trinity senior Trent Shoemaker said. “Coach Kleber told us all along that we just needed to believe, and that we could win a sectional title. Sometimes it didn’t feel like that was going to come to fruition, but clearly it did. It feels amazing, and we are so happy right now.”

After a scoreless and hitless first inning, the Cougars put a run on the board in the bottom of the second.

Batter Jack Marksberry was hit by a pitch and stole second base before Hunter Morgan drove him in with a single through the left gap to put Trinity ahead.

It didn’t take long for the Bulldogs to answer.

The Bulldogs (11-13) loaded the bases on a walk, single and Trinity fielding error off a bunt to start the third inning. Evan Sawyer then stepped to the plate and sacrificed to left field before Evan Buechler brought two runners in with a drive past second base.

In the bottom of the fourth inning, trailing 3-1, Trinity’s offense started rolling.

The Cougars loaded the bases with two hit-by-pitches and a single from Marksberry. Josh Rowe then grounded into a fielder’s choice to score Woods. Marksberry also came in on the play on an error by the Bulldogs’ catcher. With the next at-bat, Chris Mau stepped to the plate and blasted a double down the right field line to push the lead to 5-3.

After a fielder’s choice recorded the second out, Shoemaker and Woods each came up with RBI singles to extend the advantage to 7-3.

The Bulldogs only put two on base the rest of the way, as the Cougars’ defense had no problems in the final three innings.

“(Orleans) are a good ball club. We knew it was going to be a tight ballgame,” Kleber said. “Their guy (pitcher Devyn Martin) threw a lot of strikes. We knew it was just a matter of time before we started putting the bat on the ball. We had some good at-bats (in the fourth inning).

We talk about controlling what we can control all the time, and we did a good job of that. They had the bases loaded with no outs and only scored three (in the third). That could have been a lot worse. I liked how we responded.”

Woods, a sophomore, recorded 10 strikeouts while giving up five hits, one walk and three earned runs in seven innings of work.

“I went out there and played like it was just a regular game,” Woods said. “I tried to not be nervous. My curveball wasn’t really working, but it seemed like they couldn’t catch up to my fastball so I kept going with that.”

Kleber said he’s proud of how far his team has come.

“They’ve really bought into the process of what we’re trying to do here,” he said. “It’s a big step for these guys. All year long we’ve talked about expecting to win sectionals. I’m proud of the way they came out and performed.”

The Cougars will play North Daviess or Barr-Reeve at 1 p.m. in the Loogootee Regional on Saturday. Trinity’s game follows the early game between South Central and Tecumseh.

The game between Daviess County rivals was not completed by The Tribune’s deadline.

“We’re going to have our hands full in the regional,” Kleber said. “We’re going to go back to work this week and see what we can do.”

Should Trinity win its regional opener, it will play in the championship game at 7:30 p.m this weekend.