Sectional Baseball

Fast start propels Athenians into title game


DANVILLE — Crawfordsville’s baseball team slammed the door shut on Tri-West from the first moment on the way to a 10-0 semifinal win in the 3A Sectional 25 Tournament.

A web gem on the first batter of the game set the tone defensively for the Athenians, who then put seven runs on the board in their first-at-bat.

It was just about over before it got started, as Crawfordsville’s record moves to 17-12, but most importantly, 1-0 in the postseason.

The Bruins, who got to the 3A semistate last year and defeated the Athenians in the sectional last season 1-0, finish an injury-riddled season 9-17.

“It’s these guys’ time right now,” Crawfordsville coach Brett Motz said. “The message the last few days is that the coaches have done their best to prepare the team to be successful, but not it’s their time to bring that energy that they know they need to play their best. There wasn’t a lot that the coaches had to say, and the guys prepared well together this afternoon. The coaches gave them a plan, and the guys executed that plan.”

The guy that planned the seven-run first inning is a genius.

But that offensive barrage came after the defense set the tone in the top of the first.

In fact, with the first Tri-West batter.

The Bruins leadoff hitter hit a missile on the third pitch from Kale Wemer, whose pitching night will be documented in a bit.

The smash took the first hop off the artificial turf infield and picked up speed, headed for shortstop Jude Coursey.

It got there in a hurry, first hitting and bouncing off of Coursey’s glove.

It made more contact, knocking Coursey’s hat off the top of his bushy head.

The junior, who has made difficult defensive plays look routine, found the ball in the air after it bounced his lid, grabbed it in mid-air with his bare right throwing hand, and threw it to  Bryce Dowell at first for what in the scorebook says simply 6-to-3, but raised the roof in the Athenians dugout.

“Jude has been the biggest piece of our defense,” Motz noted, along with the stellar play at third base by Wyatt Motz “His (Coursey’s) ability to make those kinds of plays characterizes our team. We practiced on the (turf) football field at home this week, and while that ball actually played him instead of him playing it, that play just sparked our team. That play allows Wemer to go attack hitters because he (Wemer) knows that the defense has his back”

Wemer has his own paragraph, as the senior pitched a two-hitter, allowing two singles to the same Tri-West hitter. He walked none, struck out four, running his season total to 98. He needed 57 pitches to get through his five innings of work. He runs his record to 8-1.

There was also a defensive highlight on the mound, as in the fourth inning, Wemer fielded a one-hop smash right back at him…

Behind his back…

“Our team has so much confidence when we have Kale or Bryce (Dowell) on the mound,” Motz reflected. “Our guys are playing with a purpose, a unique intensity. When you give a guy like Wemer a seven-run lead early like that, and with his defense playing well, he can really attack hitters.”

That growth spurt in the first inning also started at the first moment.

Facing a second-team all-Sagamore Conference pitcher in the Bruins Chase Holland, Coursey drew a walk from the leadoff spot.

That was followed by two hits, a sacrifice bunt, an error, a walk, and three more hits.

The Athenians sent 11 hitters to the plate, as Coursey got a single to add to the walk, and almost instantly, there was a lucky seven on the scoreboard.

“We want to manufacture a run every inning in the playoffs,” Motz said of the offensive plan. “Whether it’s a hit, a bunt, a stolen base, we want that one, that’s what wins championships.”

The Athenians got two more in the second, as they got after the second Bruins pitcher, and then got the 10th run in the fifth, when Matt Miller stroked a two-out single to score, of course, Coursey.

Crawfordsville finished with 13 hits as they defeat the Bruins by at least nine runs for the third time this season.

Brady White got the two singles for the Bruins offense.

“These guys have taken full ownership of their team,” Motz said, looking forward to a Monday championship matchup against Western Boone. “It’s really fun to watch and see the leaders lead and the whole team bond. It’s really fun to watch these guys play their best baseball at this time of year. They are playing with a lot of heart.”

The game Monday, slated to start at 11 am, will give the Athenians a chance to get back for the only two conference losses they had this season, 2-1 at home and 7-6 at WeBo. The Stars defeated Lebanon and Danville to get their spot in the title game.

The Athenians will be looking for their first sectional title since 2013, and WeBo has been a thorn in the side a few times, knocking out some good Crawfordsville teams.

“We feel ready, and prepared,” Motz said. “We know it’s been a long time, and we know the history of Crawfordsville baseball. We hope to play with a purpose to bring a trophy home. We know that we have to bring that energy.”