Pitching and defense has been Shakamak’s bread and butter all season.
Just recently, the Lakers have added abundant and timely hitting as the meat to their winning sandwich.
To wit, No. 2-ranked Shakamak pounded out a combined 21 hits, accumulating 21 runs in winning both its Class A Morristown regional baseball games on Saturday, capping it off by defeating No. 6 Rising Sun 7-2 in the championship game Saturday night.
Shakamak (26-6) advances to the Class A semistate at either Jasper or Plainfield Saturday, the site and time of game to be determined today.
“The last two or three weeks, [the hitting] has been coming on,” Shakamak coach Chip Sweet said. “We said all along early in the season, the way we’ve been pitching and the way we’ve been playing defense, if our offense ever caught up we’d be tough to handle. We’re swinging the bats really well now.”
The hottest-hitting Lakers’ player has to be its No. 9 batter in the lineup, Robert Fowler.
Fowler was 3 for 4 with two runs scored, one double and two RBIs in the championship game.
On the day, the senior was a juggernaut, going 4 for 5 with five runs scored and four RBIs.
In the championship game, the Lakers tallied four runs in the second inning and never looked back.
Brett Yeryar led off with a single, followed by a walk and hit batsman to load the bases with one out. Fowler laced a single to left field, driving in two runs.
Brock Dowell followed with a single that drove in a third run, and should have driven in a fourth run, but Fowler stumbled and fell down rounding third base. He recovered to get back to third, but moments later scored on a wild pitch.
“When you get in the championship game like this, you get behind like that, it really, really puts the pressure on you … no doubt about it,” Sweet stated.
The score remained 4-0 until the fourth inning, when Fowler led off with a double, moved to third on a ground out, scoring on a wild pitch to put the Lakers up 5-0.
The Lakers plated unearned runs in both the fifth and seventh innings for insurance.
In the fifth, Brodie Crowe led off with a single. He was still at first when the second out was recorded, a fly ball to center field. But the Shiners’ centerfielder attempted to double off Crowe, the ball skipping away for an error, moving him to second. Christian Burris made them pay for that miscue with a two-out, RBI-single.
In the seventh, Luke Sweet doubled with one out, scoring on a Rising Sun fielding error. Sweet was 2 for 3 with two runs scored in the title tilt.
Yeryar (9-2) was the winning pitcher, tossing five shutout innings, allowing just two hit and two walks. He retired the last nine batters he faced in succession, including four via strikeouts — all those in succession too.
“I don’t think [Yeryar] was throwing as hard today as I’ve seen him in the past, but he’s going to go out there and have the ball around the plate and we’re going to have to make some plays for him,” Sweet noted. “He did what he had to do and I knew we had a couple guys ready to close things out.”
Rising Sun (21-6) fought to the end, pushing across single tallies in the sixth and seventh innings. But the Shiners could inflict no more damage thanks to a pair of sensational catches by Shakamak outfielders Brett Yeryar — he moved to rightfield in the sixth — and Kyler Fulford.
“I thought this might be the best outfield I’ve ever had,” Sweet said. “We’ve got kids that can really chase down the baseball. We pitch to contact … we’ve had our share of strikeouts this year … but our defense in the outfield has been extraordinary all year”.
Sweet also proved he’s not lost a step in avoiding “most” of the effects of an attempt by his players to empty the contents of the team’s water cooler on his person in the postgame celebration.
“For me it’s so unbelievable with each group of kids each year,” Sweet smiled. “It’s been a couple year, and we have a couple seniors here … they were part of something as freshmen when they were just on the team. It’s so rewarding to watch the enjoyment the kids get out of this.”