The Providence High School baseball team got off to a nightmarish start, dug itself a three-run hole, couldn’t quite climb out and fell to Eastern Greene 4-3 Monday night in the first round of Indiana’s Class 2-A Southridge Regional.
The Pioneers (18-9) scored one run in the top of the first inning when Tyler Simms delivered a single up the middle to drive in Ben Shahroudi, who had singled and stolen second. Then things started to fall apart.
In the bottom of the first, the Thunderbirds (18-7) put six of their first seven batters on base. Only one ball left the infield — on a single to right field by Nathan Sparks — but Eastern already had three runs.
The first-inning mess for the Pioneers included two walks, three infield hits and an error.
“I was really surprised we had those first-inning jitters,” coach Scott Hornung said. “The problems came about because we didn’t communicate and talk to each other. … Basically, we made six mistakes in that first inning. You’re not going to win like that, just not. You can’t make that many mistakes and expect to win a postseason game.”
The key play came when Eastern’s Devin Buchtman executed a bunt with the bases loaded. Pitcher Cristian Ensley fielded the ball and tossed wildly past the catcher, allowing Logan Frye and Jake Johnson to cross the plate.
The ball finally left the infield when Sparks delivered his single.
In the second inning, the Thunderbirds appeared primed to deliver a knockout punch after Frye was hit by a pitch, Johnson reached on an error and Gage Shell singled to load the bases. But Ensley regrouped to retire the next three batters, and Providence still trailed just 3-1.
“We were quite lucky to be as close as we were at that point,” Hornung said.
Providence cut the deficit to 3-2 in the third as Andrew Hunt led off with a triple to center field and scored on a wild pitch.
But with out and Eastern’s Zak Eckerle on second after a double in the bottom of the inning, the miscues continued for the Pioneers. Frye hit a grounder that scooted under the glove of third baseman Austin Dickey, allowing Eckerle to score.
Providence trailed 4-2 but kept battling.
The Pioneers loaded the bases in the fifth when Shahroudi reached on an error, Hunt was hit by a pitch and Justin Starr beat out an infield hit. Simms followed with a sacrifice fly to deep center, but the Pioneers didn’t score again. In the sixth they had runners at second and third with one out, but Shahroudi lined out to shortstop and Hunt grounded out to first.
“We never could get solid contact against the pitcher,” Hornung said. “We had opportunities in the fifth and the sixth. … We were one hit away, and I think they were finished scoring.”