Braves beat Eagles to win third sectional title in program history


AUSTIN — It was Brownstown Central’s two seniors, Carson Darlage and Ethan Fultz, who went up to accept the sectional championship trophy on Monday night.

After defeating Austin 4-2, Darlage and Fultz happily accepted the piece of hardware, throwing it up in the air toward the Brownstown fans in attendance before getting mobbed by their teammates.

Monday was just the third sectional title in program history for Brownstown Central baseball, and for second-year head coach Duane Higgs, it was only fitting his two seniors be the first ones to grasp the trophy because they’ve been the driving force behind the team’s success this season.

“I’ve been telling people all week that I have two seniors who are absolutely focused,” Higgs said. “I’ve coached this game a long time, and sometimes when you get to this time of year in spring sports, sometimes seniors can check out, and this meant the world to them. They wanted to win this sectional, and then all the young guys wanted to win it for them, so all the credit goes to the seniors. They were hungry and they’ve been leaders, and that’s why we won today.”

For Darlage, who has tasted what it’s like to win a sectional trophy in basketball season, getting it in baseball was special.

The first sectional the program ever won was in 1982, and the second came in 2016.

“It means a lot,” Darlage said. “It’s not very often that you get a baseball sectional here at Brownstown Central. Nothing against the program, it just doesn’t happen very often, so it’s a pretty special feeling to be part of the group that has one of the three.”

Brownstown got on the board first as Ethan Garland started things off with a single in the top of the first. Darlage was then walked, and after moving to second and third, a ground ball by Grayson Cassidy scored Garland.

Pierson Wheeler then singled to score Darlage, and the Braves led 2-0. Austin got one run back in the bottom of the first inning off a sacrifice fly, so Brownstown took a 2-1 lead into the second.

“They were huge,” Darlage said. “Super proud of our underclassmen. They’ve stepped up all year and gotten big hits. I’m very proud of the whole team.”

In the third inning, the Eagles had runners on second and third with no outs, and Garland was able to limit the damage to just one run as the game went to the fourth knotted at 2-2.

It didn’t take long for BC to regain the lead back. Garland singled, moved to second base on a wild pitch, and then Trent Lowery reached safely on an error, which moved Garland to third. That allowed Cassidy to come up with two outs and single to right field to score Garland for his second RBI of the game.

In the next at-bat, Wheeler got his second RBI of the game as he singled up the middle to score Lowery and make it a 4-2 ballgame.

“That’s what we’ve been preaching all year,” Higgs said. “We can’t rely on one guy. It’s 1-9, and it takes one at-bat. We stepped up and found a way to get some more runs.”

Brownstown then held Austin scoreless for the rest of the contest to win the game. The biggest chances the Eagles had was runners at the corners in the sixth inning with two outs, and then Garland came up with a strikeout to end the inning for BC.

The Braves had eight hits in the game as Wheeler had three, Garland two, Lowery, Cassidy and Jaxson Johnson each had one. Wheeler and Cassidy each had two RBI.

Garland went all seven innings and struck out five batters.

“Ethan has been our big-game pitcher all year,” Higgs said. “That’s why we wanted him in this moment because he knows how to handle adversity and toughness.”

In the first game Brownstown played on Monday morning, the Braves were in a battle with Milan in the semifinal.

It was a quick-moving pitcher’s duel as both teams were scoreless through six innings.

But in the top of the seventh inning, Lane Pendleton delivered a hit that scored Wheeler and gave BC a 1-0 lead. Brownstown had three hits in the whole game as Wheeler, Pendleton and Garland each had one.

Darlage pitched a masterpiece for Brownstown, allowing just two hits through seven innings and striking out 15 batters to shut out Milan and give the Braves a 1-0 victory to secure a spot in the sectional title game.

“I’m proud No. 11 is on our team because he is an absolute stud,” Higgs said of Darlage.

Austin beat Southwestern (Hanover) 2-0 on Monday, and both teams came in with a record of 22-8. Austin had defeated Brownstown 7-6 on April 20, but the Braves were determined to not let that outcome happen again.

Brownstown is now 23-8 this season and will meet Providence in the regional this Saturday. The location for that regional game between the Braves and Pioneers will be revealed on Wednesday.

“We’re trying to build a foundation for this program with a championship standard,” Higgs said. “It’s been a process. It’s been two years, and a lot of credit goes to that team last year, and we just built off that this year. Like I said after game one, these kids are winners, they know how to win and they showed a lot of effort and heart today. Very proud of this group.”

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