The Jeffersonville baseball team wanted to become the third school in Hoosier Hills Conference history to capture three consecutive conference titles on Saturday at Don Poole Field.
Visiting Columbus East wanted to win the 2014 league championship a little bit more.
The Olympians claimed their first HHC Tournament crown since 2001 with a 5-1 victory over the Red Devils in Saturday’s championship game. The loss snapped Jeff’s nine-game winning streak in the HHC Tourney.
The Jeff bats struggled against East starter Cam Curry. The junior right-hander kept the Red Devils off balance with his fastball and breaking pitch as he did an efficient job throwing them for strikes.
Curry threw all seven innings, allowing one earned run on three hits with five strikeouts and no walks. He improved his record to 3-0. Jeffersonville (14-6) only had three baserunners in the game.
“He did a great job out there against a great baseball team,” East coach Jon Gratz said. “Any time you beat Jeffersonville, it’s a big deal. We played some good defense behind Cam and he made some good pitches.”
Jeff coach Derek Ellis gave plenty of kudos to Curry afterwards.
“Curry pitched very, very well,” the Red Devils’ second-year manager said. “He did an extremely nice job of staying ahead in the count and making a lot of first-pitch strikes. He was making us hit the pitch that he wanted us to hit.”
Curry received a big cushion before he even stepped on the mound.
The 16-5 Olympians scored five runs in the top of the first inning off Red Devils’ starter Drew Ellis, sending nine batters to the plate. The first five East batters reached before its first out.
Sophomore left fielder Nick Andrie provided the Olympians’ initial run with an RBI single to left field to plate Curry from second base. That was followed by an opposite-field double by Will Anderson to the right-center gap to drive in a pair of runs, putting East up 3-0. It was one of several highlights for Anderson during the tournament as he tossed a no-hitter against Seymour in last Monday’s opening-round game.
After Drew Ellis struck out Peyton Gray with a high fastball for the first out, the Olympians’ Sam Claycamp had a fielder’s choice to knock in Anderson from third, making the score 4-0.
The next batter, Connor Roberts, hit a deep double to left that came off a Jeff outfielder’s glove near the fence. The two-bagger plated senior catcher Christian Wichman from third to give East a 5-0 lead.
“It’s nice to have a little bit of a cushion early. But I would’ve liked to have seen them keep up the intensity the whole game,” Gratz said.
In the bottom of the first, senior right fielder Hayden Robb smacked a one-out single to left to become Jeff’s first baserunner. He advanced to second on Drew Ellis’ groundout to shortstop. But the inning ended when senior Chandler Dale popped out to second.
“If you take away the first inning, we win the game. But that’s baseball. What are you going to do?” Derek Ellis said. “I didn’t think it was going to be a five-run first. It’s a tough deficit to come back on against a good team like that.”
The Red Devils finally got on the scoreboard in the bottom of the fourth. Drew Ellis drilled a double into the left-field corner with one out. Dale then knocked in courtesy runner Jeremiah Phelps from second with a single up the middle.
But Jeff did nothing with the sticks after that. Curry retired the final 11 batters he faced.
“I think the majority of it was Curry. He did a very nice job,” Derek Ellis said about his team’s offensive struggles on Saturday. “But the other part of it is we need to be more disciplined, too. We’re down 5-0 and we come out in the third inning and he gets out of it with a three-pitch inning. We don’t make him work. We just go up there trying or pressing to make something happen instead of letting the game come to us and making him work and seeing a bunch of pitches.
“I’m a little disappointed in that. But I’m not disappointed in the loss. I mean we got beat by a good team.”
Along with his stellar performance on the mound, Curry led the Olympians at the plate by going 2-for-4 with a run scored. He was the only multihit player in the contest.
Drew Ellis suffered the first loss in his high school career, dropping his record to 3-1. The senior right-hander pitched five innings, giving up all five East runs — three of which were earned — on seven hits. He struck out six, walked three and hit one batter.
After the five-run first, the University of Louisville signee threw four scoreless innings and gave up three hits.
“He threw well. He finally settled in and got going,” Derek Ellis said about the final four frames of his son’s outing. “I would’ve loved to have left him in, but his pitch count was really high. He did a nice job after the first inning, and really in the first inning, he didn’t do bad there. He just threw a couple of pitches on the outside part of the plate, and they drove it, hit it well and got the runs. It wasn’t his best first inning.”
Jeff senior Josh Burke pitched the final two innings. He surrendered no runs on one hit, fanning two and walking none.
Coach Ellis says the Red Devils must put Saturday’s discouraging loss behind them and focus on the Class 4A New Albany Sectional later this month. Jeff has won two sectional championships in a row.
“All is not lost. I mean yes, we wanted to win the conference. It would’ve been nice to win it three years in a row,” he said. “But it’s not sectional. We’re going to keep plugging away and work towards that.”
The Red Devils visit Madison on Tuesday. They defeated the Cubs 3-2 at Madison’s Gary O’Neal Field on Thursday in the HHC Tournament semifinals.
HOOSIER HILLS CONFERENCE TOURNAMENT
COLUMBUS EAST 5, JEFFERSONVILLE 1
Columbus East 500 000 0—5 8 0
Jeffersonville 000 100 0—1 3 0
W — Cam Curry (3-0). L — Drew Ellis (3-1). 2B — Will Anderson (CE), Connor Roberts (CE), Drew Ellis (J).
Records — Columbus East 16-5, Jeffersonville 14-6.