There are devastating losses. And then there’s one like Delphi’s sixth-ranked baseball experienced Tuesday night in the Class 2A Wabash Regional championship game against No. 1-ranked and reigning state champion Northfield.
The Oracles (23-7) led the Norsemen 1-0 entering the bottom of the seventh against ace left-hander Ryan Keaffaber (12-1), who allowed five hits, an unearned run and struck out eight. But Northfield scratched and clawed for two runs against Delphi starter Erik Carpenter and closer Brent Hawn, who was tagged with the tough-luck loss.
“I hate to lose more than I want to win,” Hawn said of the 2-1 defeat. “This is something that always is going to bite. We had the lead and were facing a great pitcher. We got a run and supported Carpenter. We just couldn’t seal the deal in the end.”
Ricky Windell’s line-shot single to center with two outs in the top of the sixth drove in pinch-runner Mason Lane with the game’s first run, and Carpenter, who allowed only three hits in six-plus innings, retired the Norsemen in the bottom of the sixth.
Northfield shortstop Adam Roser blooped a single to left to open the bottom of the seventh, and Delphi coach Kerry Yoder replaced Carpenter with closer Hawn. Keaffaber sacrificed Adam Roser to second. Andy Roser then then hit a hard grounder to third that Codey Sattler failed to handle cleanly, and Sattler was charged with an error as Adam Roser took third.
Norsemen center fielder Shane Vigar walked to load the bases. Joseph Ross grounded to first baseman Ostin Clark, who stepped on the bag for the second out, but his throw to the plate was too late to retire Adam Roser, who scored the tying run.
Designated hitter Andy Maggart hit a slow roller just inside the first-base line that Clark fielded, but he missed Maggart with the tag as Andy Roser crossed the plate with the game-winning run. Hawn also tried to get involved in the play by covering first, but neither Oracle was able to make what was a difficult play.
“That is a tough ball to read,” Hawn said. “I would think the first baseman should take the ball, because on a ball hit to the right side like that, I’m going to first. That’s something we work on all the time in pitchers and fielders practice. I couldn’t see (the swipe) because I was further up the first-base line. I don’t know if he got him or not.”
Yoder said Clark and Hawn gave excellent effort on the final play.
“It was a tough play … an in-betweener,” Yoder said. “We just didn’t make the play. (Clark) could have tagged him, but by the time he would have turned around and flipped it, the runner may have been safe anyway. They just went out and won.
“It’s an especially hard loss when you face a kid like Ryan Keaffaber. He is unbelievable on the mound. He is the best pitcher we’ve seen and maybe one of the best pitchers I have seen in my coaching career. We battled and got to him. We got a run, and Carpenter held them down. We should have won the game.”
Delphi outhit Northfield, 5-4, but could score only once against Keaffaber. Yoder said that Carpenter deserved a better fate in his final game.
“Carpenter is one of the toughest kids I’ve ever coached,” Yoder said. “The big games, he gets up for them. He battles. He doesn’t give in to hitters. He knows they are going to put the ball in play. He goes at them with the same approach each time. They may hit a ball pretty hard off him, and he will come back with the same approach against the next guy.”