The Silver Creek baseball team finally ran into an opponent that it couldn’t shut down.
It turned out to be Gibson Southern first baseman Dillon Whitten.
The Titan senior hit back-to-back home runs in the first two innings to deflate a Dragon comeback and his teammates did the rest, as Gibson Southern blasted Silver Creek, 16-4 in six innings in the finals of the Class 3A regional at Jasper’s Alvin C. Ruxer Field on Saturday night.
The loss ended the Dragons’ chance at a first-ever regional championship and stopped them short of their stated goal of winning the state title. But it wasn’t all bad news.
Class 3A No. 4 Silver Creek advanced to the regional title game earlier in the day with a 2-1 victory over Southridge (20-5), joining an elite field as one of the eight remaining teams in the state at the beginning of Saturday night’s action.
“This group of seniors are just winners,” said Silver Creek coach Joe Decker, who will lose eight players to graduation. “That’s why this hurts so much.”
GIBSON SOUTHERN 16, SILVER CREEK 4
The Class 3A No. 9 Titans (23-7) didn’t waste any time in setting the tone, plating four runs in their first at-bat off Silver Creek starter Shae Durham. The highlight came when Whitten delivered a deep blast that scored two runs, as Gibson tried to deliver a knockout punch early.
It wasn’t going to be that easy.
Silver Creek (24-8) answered right back with four runs of its own, eventually tying the score on a single to left-center field by senior Graham Jones that brought in runners from second and third base. A previous run had scored on a wild pitch from Titan starter Brooks Martin.
“After the first shot, I thought we’d be OK, especially after we got those runs right back,” said Decker. “The second one, though, that really deflated them.”
Whitten again came to the plate after back-to-back singles from Alex Smith and Brandon Staback. With one out, the first baseman crushed a towering shot that landed far behind the wall in dead center field. That made it 7-4 and the Dragons would never find the scoreboard again.
Martin held Silver Creek to just one hit over the next three innings and only two the rest of the way. The Dragons managed a baserunner in both the fifth and six innings, but could never string together the hits to move them into scoring position.
“Once we got down, we really started pressing,” said Decker. “We changed our approach and the way we do things, trying to hit the 16-run home run. When I saw [Martin] in warm-ups, I thought we could hit him and we hit him hard in the first innings. But once we changed our approach, that wasn’t going to happen.”
Meanwhile, Gibson seemed to be having one of those nights that there was no stopping. Durham gave way to reliever Bradley Grimes in the fifth inning, but the junior gave up a single and then walked three straight hitters, allowing another run to score uncontested.
That brought in Silver Creek reliever Logan Murphy, who quickly walked in another run and gave up an RBI single. The Titans scored multiple runs in every inning except the third, delivering four more in the sixth inning to finish things off with the 10-run mercy rule.
It was the final game for Durham, Jones, Brayden Ware, Brooks Howell, Drew Sherrow, Zach Spaulding, Tyler Rogge and Shawn Pezzullo, which makes up a good portion of the starting lineup and is a group that Decker says will be remembered fondly at Silver Creek, particularly for winning a sectional title in all four seasons in which they played.
That will leave Decker with plenty of returning talent, however, in standouts Cameron Cook and Murphy, among others.
“In our program, the goals never change,” Decker said. “We’re losing a lot, but we’ll do what we do every year — learn where things are, plug kids in to where they’re going to play and figure it out as we go.”
CLASS 3A JASPER REGIONAL
GIBSON SOUTHERN 16, SILVER CREEK 4
Gibson Southern 430 234—16 14 1
Silver Creek 400 000— 4 4 4
W — Brooks Martin. L — Shae Durham. 3B — Harpeneau (G), HR — Dillon Whitten (G) 2.
Records — Gibson Southern 23-7, Silver Creek 24-8.
SILVER CREEK 2, SOUTHRIDGE 1
Silver Creek 100 100 0—2 5 0
Southridge 000 001 0—1 2 1
W — Cameron Cook. 2B — Drew Sherrow (S).
Records — Silver Creek 24-7, Southridge 20-5.