Since Central Catholic returned to the Hoosier Conference before the 2011-12 school year, the Knights’ rivalry with West Lafayette has continued to intensify.
In boys sports, the teams have produced an epic 2011 football conference championship game and two conference basketball games decided by four total points.
The Red Devils and Knights shared the conference baseball championship last season after splitting their early season series. Tuesday’s resumption of the baseball rivalry lived up to the standard set over the past two years.
Central Catholic’s Hayes Cronk and West Side’s Carson Cruea locked into a pitcher’s duel that carried into extra innings. In the bottom of the ninth, Ryan DeBoy’s one-out double scored Andrew Hubertz from first base and lifted the Class A No. 1 Knights to a 2-1 victory at Leming Field.
“We definitely don’t like sharing the title with anyone, and tonight proves that,” Cronk said. “We’re willing to go the extra mile and take conference this year.”
Cronk pitched all nine innings, allowing an unearned run on three hits, walking none and striking out seven. Other than Everett Gorup’s two-out double in the seventh, the junior did not allow a runner past first base after the fourth inning.
DeBoy also drove in the Knights’ other run with a first-inning single. West Lafayette will send Brian Bangs to the mound against CC’s Lucas Richardson when the teams finish the series at Bob Friend Field.
“Tomorrow will definitely be a big game,” Cruea said. “Hopefully (Bangs) can pitch as well as I did today, or hopefully even better, and shut them down.”
Central Catholic hitters spent much of the game smacking Cruea pitches into the ground, and the Red Devil defense played errorless defense behind the senior right-hander. Cruea retired 15 straight batters before allowing a leadoff single in the eighth to Nigel Hensley and yielding to reliever Lorenzo Domondon.
With Hensley at third and two outs, Cowan Olinger lined a ball toward third that West Side freshman Paul Siciliano grabbed for the third out. But after Hubertz drew his second walk of the game in the ninth, DeBoy ripped a fastball that landed three feet inside the left field line, and Hubertz scored without a play at the plate.
“I was just looking for a pitch that I could drive out to the outfield and move Andrew over and let another guy come up there,” said DeBoy, who made the all-tournament team at last week’s USA Classic in Memphis, Tenn. “It happened to fall in the gap where he could keep running.”
West Lafayette’s Wolfgang Funk reached on an error with two outs in the fourth and scored when Spencer Ronchetto doubled into the left-center field gap. That was the only damage against Cronk, who coaxed several harmless fly balls while retiring 15 of 17 batters over the final five innings.
After opening the season with a 10-0 loss to McCutcheon, West Lafayette has played three straight one-run games, including Monday’s 4-3 victory over Logansport.
“I feel it was a major step forward, because obviously CC is always a good ballclub and they always come to compete,” Cruea said. “We showed today we can play up to our competition.”