Central Catholic’s state championship streak began with a 14-1 victory over Vincennes Rivet in 2009.
To win a fifth straight title, the Knights must again defeat a team from the Knox County school with an enrollment of 115. Here’s a closer look at the Patriots, who have made an unlikely run to the Class A title game:
With the exception of a 2-0 sectional championship victory over Frontier, Central Catholic has not faced a serious state tournament threat. By contrast, Rivet’s tournament began with a pair of nail-biters.
The Patriots escaped a bases-loaded, no-out situation in the seventh inning of its sectional opener against host Loogootee. Rivet eventually won, 5-4, in nine innings.
In the semifinals, Rivet trailed Shoals 3-2 with runners at second and third and two outs in the bottom of the seventh. But a routine grounder to short resulted in a wild throw to first, allowing both runs to score and giving the Patriots a 4-3 victory.
Rivet beat Barr-Reeve 4-2 in the sectional championship and has outscored its last three opponents 30-6, including a 7-0 semistate victory over No. 6 Rising Sun.
“We’ve just kind of found a way to win,” said Rivet coach Bill Beard, who has taught precision manufacturing at Vincennes University for 23 years. “We’ve made plays and thrown strikes and played solidly enough. A lot of times teams beat themselves, and we’ve capitalized on other teams’ mistakes and held our own mistakes to a minimum.”
While no current Patriots were on the 2009 roster, three have a direct connection to that team. The older brothers of senior Colin Vieke and juniors Blake Mouzin and Collin Wirth all played on the state runner-up.
Beard said someone recently found a photo from the 2009 championship game, showing most of Rivet’s current team seated behind the Patriots’ dugout at Victory Field.
Chase Allen is Rivet’s top pitcher and a middle-of-the-order hitter. The expected championship game starting pitcher is 6-1 with a 2.45 ERA and 66 strikeouts in 621⁄3innings.
“He’s not an overpowering guy, but he’s a very smart pitcher, hits his spots, that sort of thing,” Beard said. “He changes speeds well.”
Allen, a junior, also bats .358 and ranks second on the team in runs (24) and RBIs (19). Wirth (.400, 2 HR, 25 runs), Gavin Benock (.365, 1 HR, 19 RBIs) and Peyton Cummins (.358, 27 RBIs) are among the Patriots’ other top hitters.
Like Central Catholic, Rivet readies itself for the postseason with a tough regular-season schedule. In addition to a solid Blue Chip Conference schedule, the Patriots’ non-conference slate included several bigger schools, including 3A state finalist Jasper and 3A regional finalist Gibson Southern.
Of Rivet’s 12 losses, eight came by three or fewer runs.
“We’ve seen good pitching night in, night out,” Beard said. “There weren’t very many easy ones on our schedule.”
Making her name
One Rivet player quickly became a fan favorite in 2009. Sophomore left fielder Emily Montgomery became the first girl to play in a baseball state championship game.
Montgomery had been recruited to the team by her older brother, Cory, because the team was short on players. She flew out to right field in her only title game at-bat.
Montgomery’s best sport was basketball, and she led Rivet to a runner-up finish in Class A in 2010 and a state championship in 2011. She continued her athletic career at Danville (Ill.) Area Community College, playing in all 32 games and averaging 9.8 points, 4.9 rebounds and 2.0 assists last winter.