Ashe Russell was brilliant in Saturday’s IHSAA Class 4-A state baseball championship against Elkhart Central at Victory Field, but the sophomore’s six masterful innings weren’t enough for Cathedral to win its third title and complete an undefeated season.
Elkhart Central prevailed 1-0 as Tanner Tully struck out 13 in a complete game and gave himself the only run he needed with a leadoff homer in the first inning.
The Blazers finished 32-1, Cathedral 28-1.
“That first at-bat, I left a pitch right over the middle and (Tully) crushed it,” Russell said after Elkhart Central won its first state title.
After the home run, Russell allowed just two hits the rest of the way, striking out five and walking none. Aside from a one-out double by shortstop Cory Malcom in the fourth, not a single Elkhart Central baserunner reached scoring position against Russell after Tully’s shot.
The Irish’s best chance to tie it came in the top of the sixth when Brendan Flood led off with a single and stole second. The next batter, Harry Shipley, bunted and reached on a throwing error by Tully, with Flood holding at second.
But Luke Cureton popped a bunt back to the mound, and Alex Boos flied out to shallow center. With Austin Sparks at the plate, Flood was caught trying to steal third to end the threat.
“(My mentality was) just keep working, make pitches and hope the defense behind me makes plays,” Tully said.
He praised his counterpart.
“He had great velocity,” Tully said of Russell. “He had a good slider, good off-speed (pitch) and kept us off balance.”
“I thought if we could scratch out two or three runs, Tanner would hold them,” Elkhart Central coach Steve Stutsman said. “We didn’t get two or three runs, but I have that much faith in Tanner and his ability.”
After his team fell just short of a perfect season, Cathedral coach Rich Andriole summed up the pride he has in his players with a single, emotional sentence: “Groups like this don’t come around often.”
All four title games this weekend were one-run decisions.
Earlier Saturday, Lafayette Central Catholic defeated Vincennes Rivet 4-3 in Class A and South Spencer defeated Northfield 3-2 in 2-A. On Friday night Norwell won the 3-A title 2-1 over Jasper.