INDIANAPOLIS — New Albany is one of two unbeaten teams remaining in the state tournament after a thrilling come-from-behind win over Franklin Township on Tuesday.
Little separated the defending Major division champions and the reigning 11-year-old champions until Maxwell Alexander's single — and help from Franklin Township's second error of the game — gave New Albany a big 5-4 win in seven innings at Decatur Little League in Indianapolis.
"It's always big to stay in the winners' bracket," New Albany manager Brian Jackson said. "You get a day off and we'll have [all of our pitching] ready for Thursday. It's big. Big win. This has been a great summer so far and I hope we can extend it a pretty good long way."
New Albany will face Evansville Highland — a 16-6 winner over Terre Haute North — on Thursday with the winner advancing to Friday's state championship game. The loser will battle one of four teams currently in the elimination bracket — Brownsburg, Munster, Terre Haute North or Franklin Township — with the winner advancing to the state championship.
New Albany has played in the state championship game each of the last five seasons and has won four state titles in those years.
"They can definitely hit the baseball," Jackson said of Highland. "We're going to go at them with our best."
On Tuesday, New Albany and Franklin Township were tied after every inning until the seventh. Franklin Township scored four times in the second inning off New Albany starter Luke Kruer, but New Albany responded with four runs of its own.
Cody Jackson started the second with a walk and Kruer followed with New Albany's first hit. Jack Beyl's ground ball brought home Jackson with New Albany's first run. After Franklin Township's first error, Brian Wall, who later scored the game-winning run, had a 2-run single off Franklin Township reliever Corbin Napier to cut the deficit to 4-3.
Alexander then drove in Wall — for the first of two times — to tie the game.
"We just play as a team and never give up," Wall said.
Chase Loesch relieved Kruer and allowed just one hit in 2 2/3 innings. Beyl then relieved Loesch — keeping New Albany's ace eligible for Thursday's game — and retired nine of the 10 batters he faced.
"I just wanted to go out there and throw strikes," Beyl said.
In 5 1/3 innings of relief work, Beyl and Loesch allowed just two hits and three baserunners.
"Jack Beyl did a phenomenal job," Jackson said. "And Chase came in and shut them down. The whole group did a good job. [Kruer] did a good job. They just hit him."
The strong pitching allowed New Albany to take the win in the seventh.
First, Wall drew a walk. Alexander then came up and hit a hard ground ball past Franklin Township shortstop Skyler Thackett. The ball then bounced over the glove of center fielder Josh Moriarty and Wall raced home with the winning run.
"I just wanted a base hit, to get on base," Alexander said.
Wall said he was surprised when he saw Jackson, who was coaching third base, giving him the sign to go home.
"I thought the outfielder had it," said Wall, who played a part in four of New Albany's five runs.
Alexander had a pair of singles in the win.
LITTLE LEAGUE STATE FINALS
At Decatur Little League, Indianapolis
NEW ALBANY 5, FRANKLIN TOWNSHIP 4
Franklin Twp. 040 000 0—4 7 2
New Albany 040 000 1—5 6 0
W — Jack Beyl. L — Corbin Napier. 2B — Drew Lawrence (F). 3B — Brian Wall (F).
State finals records — Franklin Twp. 2-1, New Albany 3-0.