GARRETT – What looked like a slugfest after both teams scored three runs in the first inning turned out to be a pitchers’ duel and the Heritage Patriots had the man they wanted on the mound in Morgan Andrews, as the senior threw a complete game and allowed just one more run the rest of the way, sending the Patriots to just their second IHSAA title in the last 15 years, beating Concordia 6-4.
With Heritage ace Noah Redmon firing the Patriots into the championship game with a complete game Saturday, it was all up to Andrews and he delivered, striking out eight and pitching phenomenally over the final six frames. He allowed just five hits in total, with three of them coming in the opening inning.
Andrews struggled with his command early, getting himself into a jam with two walks in the first inning. Maddux Wright doubled in two with two outs, then Jon Clem singled in Wright and it was 3-0 before the Patriots even had a chance to bat.
The early deficit provided even more motivation for the Heritage bats and they jumped all over Wright, who was the starter for the Cadets. Just as Concordia had done, Heritage sacrificed the leadoff hitter over to second after Andrew Mirelez reached on an infield single, but the Patriots benefited from an error by Wright for both runners to be safe.
Wright recovered for two big strikeouts of Redmon and Jackson Bearman, but Dalton White picked them both up with a double down the right field line to score two. Andrews followed with a hit, erasing the early three-spot he had given his opponents.
Playing off the momentum of his big hit, Andrews came back on fire, striking out the side in the second on 13 pitches.
Heritage took the lead and did not look back in the bottom of the second. Cameron Rauner was hit by the first pitch from Wright and was immediately bunted over to second by Mirelez. The pressure of a runner in scoring position caused Concordia to commit two errors and allow another runner to score on a passed ball and the Patriots scored twice without an RBI hit.
Wright continued to lead Concordia at the plate, driving in a runner who had reached on an error to start the third, but Andrews ended the half inning with a big celebration on a called third strike with runners at second and third.
The battle between Andrews and Wright continued into the bottom of the third with Wright getting Andrews on a K and then striking out two more for a clean inning. Wright ended his outing with nine Ks.
The bottom of the fourth saw the Pats beginning with the leadoff hitter, Mirelez, and he singled to right and then took second on a wild pitch with Abbott at the plate. Abbott then grounded out to third and Mirelez never stopped, coming around to score on a poor throw home.
The run by Mirelez was the last one scored in the contest.
Andrews’ biggest jam came in the fifth. Chance Harris singled and Jack Belschner followed with a base hit to center. The Patriot hurler got a second out but walked Clem, leaving Carter Ripke in a big spot with his team trailing by two and the bases loaded. A fastball on the outside corner put Andrews ahead in the count and he got Ripke to pop up to Redmon at shortstop to end the threat.
White singled to lead off the fifth but was caught stealing on the next pitch, hurting the Patriots’ chances to add any insurance runs, but they didn’t need any because Andrews did not allow another base runner the rest of the way.
All of Wright’s six runs were unearned before he was lifted in the sixth inning for Luke Bultemeier, who worked a clean inning in relief for the losing Cadets. Wright walked just one to go with his nine Ks.
Heritage had seven hits in total, with the only extra-base hit coming from White, who was 2 for 3 for the game. Mirelez also had two hits for coach Dean Lehrman’s team.
Tyler Redmon singled and walked, playing the entire game behind the plate and managing Andrews’ game plan.
The Patriots will now wait until Wednesday to find out where they will take on the East Noble Knights. That game will be played Saturday at a site selected by the IHSAA, with the winner being crowned Regional Champions. The game will be broadcast live on WZBD.