By KEVIN HARRIS
Floyd Central coach Casey LaDuke proved he was psychic on Thursday night in the first round of the Class 4A Bedford North Lawrence Sectional.
Earlier in the week, LaDuke predicted that the games in the 4A sectional will be close, low-scoring contests like in past 4A sectionals because of the quality pitching in the tournament.
LaDuke hit the nail right on the head in his team’s opening-round contest with archrival New Albany. The Class 4A No. 1 Highlanders knocked off the Bulldogs on Thursday, 2-1.
“I’ve been coaching for 14 years and I’ve played against them and I’ve played against [Jeffersonville] and it’s always this type of game,” LaDuke said. “Whenever there is good pitching, it’s always a 2-1 or 1-0 game.”
Floyd Central (28-2) will face the host Stars in the first semifinal at 10 a.m. on Monday. Bedford shut out Seymour in Thursday’s sectional opener, 4-0.
The second semifinal will take place at about 12:30 p.m. on Monday between Jeffersonville and Jennings County. The championship game will be at 7 p.m. on Monday.
Floyd Central got on the board first thanks to a New Albany error. In the bottom of the first inning with two out and the bases loaded, Highlander junior Ross Lundy hit a grounder to Bulldog shortstop Jack Shine. But the ball took a bad hop that Shine could not handle, allowing Derek DeSpain and Trey Fulton to score to put Floyd Central up 2-0.
The Bulldogs (22-7) cut their deficit to 2-1 in the top of the third. With the bases loaded and two out, New Albany right fielder Zach Worrall got down 0-2 to Floyd Central starting pitcher Kyle Sipes. But Worrall worked the count brilliantly as Sipes ended up walking the senior to plate third baseman Dylan Cook from third.
The Highlanders attempted to get an insurance run in the bottom of the sixth. Fulton led off the frame with an opposite-field single to right field. After Colton Kimm struck out while trying to bunt, Lundy hit an opposite-field base hit to left to move Fulton to second.
But New Albany starter Brandon Johnson struck out Kyle Neafus with a fastball away. After a wild pitch moved Fulton and Lundy to second and third, the Highlanders’ Brandon Smith grounded out to third to end the threat.
Sipes shut down the Bulldogs 1-2-3 in the seventh. He fanned New Albany’s Tanner Robison with a high fastball, forced Shane Robison to fly out to center and Cook grounded out to short.
“I thought when we got to the park with temperature like it is and with grass up to your ankles, scoring runs were going to be at a premium,” New Albany coach Chris McIntyre said. “That’s why those two runs in that first inning were important. Even though it was two runs, it felt like five or six the way the game played out.”
Sipes improved to 9-2 in the complete-game victory. He allowed one run (earned) on two hits with three strikeouts and three walks. Sipes retired the last 11 Bulldogs he faced.
“He has had one bad inning all year and that’s it,” LaDuke said.
Johnson went the distance, yielding two runs (both unearned) on three hits with seven strikeouts and three walks. Fulton was the only multihit player in the contest, going 2-for-3 with a run scored.