By KEVIN HARRIS
FLOYDS KNOBS —
Class 4A No. 1 Floyd Central has found several ways to win this season.
On Wednesday evening at Highlander Field, the undefeated Highlanders discovered another way to come out on top.
Floyd Central took advantage of several Seymour mistakes to prevail in the Hoosier Hills Conference Tournament semifinal, 8-1.
The Highlanders (23-0) will travel to Jeffersonville in the HHC Tournament championship game on Friday. The Red Devils won their semifinal over Madison at Don Poole Field on Wednesday, 1-0.
“That’s what you got to do against the younger teams like that,” Floyd Central coach Casey LaDuke said. “That’s what I told the kids — if they make mistakes, we’ve got to take advantage of them. We’ve been doing that all year.”
Connor Curry was the first Highlander to take advantage of an Owl miscue. Leading off the bottom of the first inning, the senior drilled a 3-2 pitch from Seymour starting pitcher Billy Rayburn over the left-field fence for a solo home run to give Floyd Central a 1-0 lead.
“It definitely gave us some momentum,” said Curry, who has signed a national letter of intent to play at the University of Southern Indiana next season. “It kind of put them down in an early hole. It really hurts the pitcher’s confidence whenever someone hits a home run in the early innings.”
Floyd Central’s biggest inning was the third as it scored six runs.
Curry smacked a one-out triple to the left-center field wall to get things rolling. Then with two out and runners at first and third base, Jacob Snodgrass reached base on an Owls throwing error that knocked in Curry from third.
Shortly thereafter, Rayburn drove in two runs after walking the Highlanders’ Ross Lundy with the bases loaded and then hitting Kyle Neafus with a pitch with the bases full.
The scoring in the inning ended when Floyd Central designated hitter Kyle Beach hit a drive to center that deflected off the glove of Seymour center fielder Tanner Belcher. Beach’s deep fly was scored a double, as his hit cleared the bases for three runs to put the Highlanders up 7-0. All six runs in the frame were unearned.
“[Rayburn] struggled, he walked hitters and then Kyle Beach hit the big double and that kind of opened up everything for us,” LaDuke said. “That was the big hit. It wasn’t probably our best effort, but we played good enough to win.”
Floyd Central’s final run was in the bottom of the fourth. Curry drew a walk, moved to second on a Rayburn balk and then went to third on a passed ball. The Highlanders’ Derek DeSpain drove in Curry with an infield single.
Curry led the Floyd Central offense, going 2-for-3 with three runs scored and an RBI. DeSpain went 2-for-3 with an RBI. Curry said hitting against hard-throwing New Albany pitcher Brandon Johnson in the Highlanders’ 6-2 first-round victory over the Bulldogs on Tuesday.
“I was seeing the ball real good today,” Curry said. “I saw it well [Tuesday] against Brandon Johnson. Everyone was hitting it pretty good [Tuesday]. We were hitting some balls hard right at people, so I figured we’d be hitting the ball good again tonight.”
Highlanders’ starter Brandon Smith got the win to improve his record to 4-0. The sophomore right-hander recorded a complete game, yielding one earned run on five hits. Smith struck out seven, hit two batters and walked one. Smith also picked off two Owl runners.
Smith tried to preserve a shutout in the seventh, but he came up short when he gave up a bases-loaded walk to Seymour’s Jeremiah Tracey.
“Other than the last inning, he was sharp,” LaDuke said. “That’s three good outings in a row for him. We needed that out of him.”
Floyd Central defeated Jeffersonville in dramatic fashion on April 3 at Highlander Field, 6-5. Trey Fulton won the game for the Highlanders in the bottom of the seventh with a one-out RBI single.
“We just have to go there and play good baseball,” LaDuke said. “It’s nice to get there. At least we’re there and now we’ll see what happens.”