In the 2012 Class 4A Evansville Reitz Regional final at historic Bosse Field, Jeffersonville had its season end by a New Palestine walk-off home run in the bottom of the seventh inning in a heartbreaking 11-9 loss.
On Saturday in the Class 4A Reitz Regional semifinal, the Red Devils got their hearts broken again at Bosse Field in similar fashion.
Whiteland’s Austin Browning picked the perfect time to get his first home run of the 2014 season. The junior designated hitter smacked a game-winning solo shot in the bottom of the seventh off Jeff reliever Drew Ellis to give the Warriors a 5-4 upset victory. In Saturday’s championship game, Whiteland lost to Castle, 2-1 to finish its season with a 12-18 record.
“I told them, ‘Put the loss on me. Don’t walk out of here with your heads down,’” Red Devils’ head coach Derek Ellis told his squad on the Bosse Field diamond shortly after the stunning setback. “Whiteland is a good team.”
It looked like the first semifinal was heading to extra innings at the start of the bottom of the seventh. Drew Ellis forced the Warriors’ Austin Fields to foul out to Jeff catcher Trey Dempsey and then struck out Whiteland catcher Wyatt Chitwood looking.
But Browning got ahead in the count 3-0 against Coach Ellis’ oldest son. After Drew Ellis threw a strike to make the count 3-1, Browning swung at a fastball and sent it over the left-field wall for the game-winner. The younger Ellis went to the mound in the bottom of the sixth and retired the first five batters he faced, which included three strikeouts, before squaring off against Browning.
Jeff (21-8) got off to a great start in its quest for a second consecutive regional title.
In the top of the second with two out and runners at second and third base, right fielder Hayden Robb laced a double into left field to drive in Nolan Fertig from third to put the Red Devils up 1-0. Then sophomore first baseman Joe Burke smacked a two-run homer over the left-field wall off Whiteland starter Jared Adkins to give Jeff a 3-0 advantage.
The Red Devils were on the verge of going up 4-0 in the top of the third. Drew Ellis led off the frame with a double that hit the left-field wall. The University of Louisville signee then advanced to third after Drew Campbell flew out to shallow center. Drew Ellis barely beat the throw to third by Warriors’ center fielder Dillon Dickens. But the inning ended when Jeff’s Chandler Dale fouled out to Adkins and Fertig grounded out to first.
Whiteland pulled to within one run in the bottom of the third. With two out, Chitwood collected a single to center off Red Devil starter Josh Burke to knock in Adkins and Fields to cut the Warriors’ deficit to 3-2.
Whiteland took its first lead in the bottom of the fifth. Adkins started the inning with a double to left, followed by a Fields bunt single that rolled down the first-base line that moved Adkins to third.
Chitwood drove in Adkins with a groundout to shortstop to tie the game at three. But on that play, Fields took a gamble and tried to get to third. But Jeff turned the double play when Joe Burke threw to Drew Ellis, the shortstop at the time, at third. Ellis then tagged out Fields for the second out.
However, Josh Burke put runners at first and second when he surrendered a Browning base hit and Whiteland junior Branton Sanders got hit by a pitch. That prompted Coach Ellis to replace the Red Devil right-hander for sophomore reliever Jeremiah Phelps.
But Phelps gave up an RBI single to Dickens that plated Browning, giving the Warriors a 4-3 advantage. Phelps, who has a sidearm delivery, then got the groundball Jeff was looking for when he forced Christian Curry to ground out to third.
Derek Ellis thought the Warriors’ two runs in the fifth swayed the game’s momentum their way.
“The two runs in the fifth - that was big,” the second-year Jeff manager said.
Drew Ellis deadlocked the game at four in the top of the sixth. With two out and runners at first and second, he hit a chopper into center field to knock in pinch-runner Jacob Flispart from second. Drew Ellis wound up 3-for-4, while Joe Burke went 2-for-3.
Josh Burke worked 4 2/3 innings in the no-decision outing. Burke allowed four runs (all earned) on seven hits, no walks and one hit batsman with four strikeouts.
“Josh was throwing well, but he was getting the ball up. He needed to get the ball down in the [strike] zone,” Derek Ellis said. “Josh made a ton of great pitches.”
Adkins was effective on the mound and at the plate. The senior pitched a complete game, yielding four earned runs on seven hits. He struck out two, walked two and hit a pair of batters. In the batter’s box, he went 3-for-4 with two runs scored. Browning was 2-for-4 and scored a couple of runs.
Saturday’s loss marked the final game for one of the most successful senior classes in Jeff history in Dale, Robb, Josh Burke and Drew Ellis. The quartet helped the Red Devils win three sectional titles, two Hoosier Hills Conference Tournament championships and one regional crown. Jeff reached the Class 4A Final Four last season.
The four players also were members of the 2008 Jeff/GRC Little League team that advanced to the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pa.
“They’ve meant the world to me,” said Derek Ellis, who was the manager of the ‘08 Little League World Series squad. “We’ve been together for at least 10 years. I love those guys.”
CLASS 4A EVANSVILLE REITZ REGIONAL
WHITELAND 5, JEFFERSONVILLE 4
Jeffersonville 030 001 0—4 7 1
Whiteland 002 020 1—5 9 1
W — Jared Adkins (5-4). L — Drew Ellis (4-2). 2B — D. Ellis (J), Ian Ellis (J), Hayden Robb (J), Adkins (W). HR — Joe Burke (J), Austin Browning (W).
Records - Jeffersonville 21-8, Whiteland 12-17.