By KEVIN HARRIS
> SOUTHERN INDIANA —
Throughout the regular season, coaches in the Class 4A Bedford North Lawrence Sectional have said this year’s sectional field will be one of the most competitive in years.
That tune has not changed this week as first-round play of the sectional will start on Thursday.
After the sectional opener between Seymour and Bedford at 5 p.m. on Thursday, Class 4A No. 1 Floyd Central (27-2) will face county rival New Albany (22-6) in the second first-round game at about 7:30 p.m.
The opening-round winners will square off at 10 a.m. on Monday in the first semifinal, followed by Jeffersonville (19-5) and Jennings County (15-10) in the second semi at about 12:30 p.m. The championship game will be at 6 p.m. on Monday.
The three Class 4A area coaches — Floyd Central’s Casey LaDuke, Jeffersonville’s Derek Ellis and New Albany’s Chris McIntyre — all agree that the sectional draw does not mean a lot this year.
“In our sectional, there is no easy draw when you’ve got as many good teams, good players and good pitchers that’s in there,” McIntyre said. “Honestly, I don’t spend a lot of time worrying about it. You just play the first team up. If you’re good enough and you win, you worry about the next game. If you start the second or third game down the road, there won’t be a second or third game down the road.”
LaDuke points out that the Class 4A sectional has close games each season and he says this year will be no different.
“In my past 14 years of coaching, so many of our sectional games have been low-scoring and one-run games. Because of the quality pitchers in our sectional, I expect that again,” LaDuke said.
When fans look at the Bedford Sectional draw, the defending sectional champion Red Devils seem to have an advantage. Jeff received a first-round bye and its top two pitchers — Trent Astle and Mark Meyer — have had great seasons.
But Ellis says Jeff’s path to repeating as sectional champions will not be a cakewalk by any means. The Red Devils will be playing Jennings County for the fourth time this season. Jeff won the previous three meetings.
“On paper, the draw looks good,” Ellis said. “But trying to beat Jennings again will not be easy.”
Ellis also thinks winning the sectional gets even tougher with all the teams coming from the Hoosier Hills Conference. Therefore, all the sectional teams know each other well and will come up with solid scouting reports.
“Some draws are more favorable than others. But our conference is so stinking tough that no game will be easy,” Ellis said. “Hopefully, the teams in the first round will beat each other up before Monday.”
Floyd Central has beaten New Albany in both of their matchups this season. The Highlanders defeated the Bulldogs on April 10 at Mount Tabor Field in New Albany, 10-5.
In the second meeting, New Albany led 2-1 in the top of the seventh inning in the first round of the HHC Tournament at Mount Tabor Field. But in the frame, the Highlanders scored five runs to rally and prevail 6-2.
“Floyd is going to be a handful for us,” McIntyre said. “But in the first game, we ended up having the tying run in scoring position. We outplayed them for 6 1/3 innings the next time we played them, so maybe we can play them for 21 outs in the sectional. But Floyd is so good that you can play a perfect game and you still may not win the game.”
LaDuke anticipates the third matchup with the Bulldogs to be a challenge. But he is confident the Highlanders can come out with a first-round victory.
“It’s going to be tough,” LaDuke said. “But we feel that we have a good team who can compete with anybody. The draw is what it is. We can’t control the draw. Whenever we are scheduled to play and whomever we are scheduled to play, we’ll show up ready to compete.”
CLASS 3A NORTH HARRISON SECTIONAL
Like the Bedford Sectional, the North Harrison Sectional has a formidable field.
Three squads are ranked in the final Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Class 3A poll. Silver Creek is ranked fourth, Charlestown (22-6) is sixth and Brownstown Central is eighth. In addition, North Harrison and Corydon Central are having solid seasons.
“The overall field is extremely tough in this year’s sectional,” Pirates’ coach Ricky Romans said. “I think it is going to be one of the more competitive sectionals in Class 3A. Each team knows each other very well, having played games in the [Mid-Southern] conference. It will simply come down to who executes and who doesn’t. The field is wide open this year, in my opinion.”
Charlestown will play the third first-round game of the sectional at about 7:30 p.m. on Thursday against Scottsburg (7-21), which is coached by former Jeff coach Al Rabe. Romans played for Rabe when he was a player at Jeff High.
If Charlestown beats the Warriors, it will face either Brownstown or Corydon in the sectional semifinals at about 1:30 p.m. on Monday.
“Execution and playing fundamentally sound baseball will be the keys to us having an opportunity to advance and potentially win the sectional,” Romans said. “In this sectional and in tournament play in general, one mistake can cost you. I want my team to come focused and prepared, but I also want them to enjoy the moment and just play baseball.”
Silver Creek, which has won the past two sectionals, received the lone bye in the sectional. The Dragons will face either Salem or the host Cougars in Monday’s first semifinal at 11 a.m. The championship will take place at 7 p.m. on Monday.
CLASS 2A PROVIDENCE SECTIONAL
Providence (16-8) will get a chance to avenge last year’s sectional championship loss to defending sectional champion Eastern right off the bat. The Pioneers will host the Musketeers in the second semifinal at about 1 p.m. on Saturday. The championship game will be at 7 p.m. on Saturday. Eastern defeated Providence in last year’s sectional final, 6-5.
Pioneers’ coach Scott Hornung says pitching and defense will be critical if Providence is to win its first sectional crown since 2011.
“There are basically going to be two keys,” Hornung said. “Key No. 1 is our pitchers have got to throw strikes. If our pitchers throw strikes and we limit ourselves to two errors or less in a game, we’re going to be in good shape.”
Henryville (13-10) will play Clarksville in tonight’s second first-round game at about 7. The Hornets lost to the Generals in last year’s first-round sectional game in five innings, 12-1. The Henryville-Clarksville winner will face either Paoli or Crawford County in the first semi at 11 a.m. on Saturday.
“I feel pretty good about our draw considering that the favorite, Providence, is in the opposite bracket,” Hornets’ coach Jeff Schroeder said. “They are by far the best team in the sectional. We are not going to overlook anyone, though. The past two weeks haven’t been very good for us, so I would just like to win that first game and then see what happens.”
Henryville is seeking its first Class 2A sectional title, as it won six Class A sectionals from 1999-2008. But Schroeder says the Hornets have got to play better baseball and get out of their recent slump.
“In order for us to win, we have to throw strikes, play solid defense and get back to producing some runs,” Schroeder said. “Our offense has been non-existent lately. We can’t win if we don’t score. Nobody can. As with all the teams, we have to catch a few breaks along the way as well.”
CLASS A LANESVILLE SECTIONAL
Borden (7-11) will face New Washington (2-16) in the first semifinal of the five-team sectional at 5 p.m. on Friday. The Braves defeated the Mustangs on May 14 at New Washington, 12-2.
Rock Creek Academy will play in the second semifinal at about 7 p.m. on Friday against either the host Eagles or Class A No. 5 South Central. The championship will be at 2 p.m. on Saturday.
Lanesville and South Central will open the sectional at 5 p.m. on Thursday in the lone first-round game.