Shiners secure sectional championship over Cougars

MADISON — Coach Ben Kleber was hoping his Trinity Lutheran baseball team could keep things close against Rising Sun on Monday and have a chance to pull the game out at the end.

However, the Shiners scored one run in the first and four in the second and rolled to an 8-0 win behind ace pitcher Peyton Merica, who held the Trinity batters in check, allowing only two hits in an 8-0 win in the finals of the Shawe Memorial Sectional.

Merica, who bats leadoff for the Shiners, singled to lead off the first and later scored on a wild pitch.

The Shiners blew the game open in the second inning when they used a hit batsman, an error and a walk to load the bases, Merica doubled to drive in two runs and two more runs scored on wild pitches for a 5-0 lead.

Payton Creech singled leading off the third inning, went to second on a hit batsman, stole third and scored on a wild pitch.

Merica singled in the fifth, the next three batters walked to force in one run and another batter was hit by a pitch to force in the final run.

Merica had three hits and scored three runs, and Creech had three hits and scored one run. Merica had three RBI, and Creech had one RBI.

Kleber said Rising Sun’s experience was a big factor.

“That’s what you worry about with a team like that,” he said. “They had eight seniors that have played a lot of baseball and won a lot of sectionals.”

Trinity’s best threat to score came in the second inning when Drake Goospaster led off with a single past the second baseman into right-center field. With one out, Chase Bode was hit by a pitch. When the Shiners attempted a pickoff on Bode at first base, the throw got away from the first baseman, and Goospaster went to third.

Two strikeouts ended that threat.

Merica retired the next seven batters in order before Levi Coomler walked with one out in the fifth. He was thrown out at second base on a steal attempt.

Levi Pottschmidt collected Trinity’s second hit with a single up the middle with two outs in the sixth, but he was stranded at first base.

In the top of the seventh, Goospaster hit a fly ball to right field that was dropped for an error, and Andrew Bell followed with a walk. They were stranded when the next three batters made outs.

“We had some opportunities. We had some guys on with a couple hits here and there and some walks. We tried to put on some pressure,” Kleber said. “We had some guys thrown out, but when a team’s up on you like that and they add some pressure, that magnifies everything and it puts us in a spot where it creates a little pressure and we need to try to do something where it doesn’t take five hits off a kid like that to score a run. They controlled their side of it and did a good job.”

Merica finished with six strikeouts and two hits, walked two and hit one batter.

“When they’ve got the Merica kid on the mound, they’re a different team, and they showed that today, and he did a heck of a job by keeping us off balance,” Kleber said. “He threw about whatever he wanted whenever he wanted. You’ve got to tip your cap to the other guy sometimes, and that’s where we’re at today.”

Trinity’s senior players were Coomler, Sage Broughton, Bell, Levi Froedge, Cole Brewer and Nathan Voelker.

“They’re good kids, they worked hard, they mean a lot to me,” Kleber said. “I’ve spent a lot of time with those guys. There is a lot of upset guys, a lot of emotions. You expect that. They’ve left the program in a better place, and I appreciate everything they did. I can’t say enough about those six. I’m really going to miss them. I’m proud of the way they carried themselves this year battling and bringing the younger team along. I’m happy with them and we’re going to miss them.”

Coomler, Voelker, Broughton and Goodpaster were named to the all-sectional team.

Trinity finished 13-16, and Rising Sun will take a record of 16-6-1 into the Loogootee Regional on Saturday.