There are just three instances of a high school baseball team from Delaware County making it to the IHSAA state championship game in baseball, and none of them have won.
When Wapahani travels to Victory Field on Saturday to face Evansville Mater Dei in the Class 2A state championship game (first pitch is scheduled for 4 p.m.), it will become the fourth team trying to make history as the only team from the county to finish a season with a championship.
Cowan was the last team to have a chance, but fell 6-2 to Shakamak in the 2008 Class A championship game.
The other schools from Delaware County to come up short in the final game were Northside in 1980 and Wapahani in 2004.
“It’s so hard to win in the tournament – so many things have to go right to get all the way there,” said Camden Parkhurst, who coached Cowan in 2008. “There’s just as much luck involved as talent. There are a lot of things you can’t control. You get a bounce here or there, sort of like what happened to Wapahani last Saturday.”
Wapahani’s Hunter Stanley scored on a wild pitch in the bottom of the seventh inning last Saturday for a 2-1 win against Lafayette Central Catholic in the Class 2A Kokomo Semistate.
Many of the players on the Raiders roster have played together since elementary school, creating a team chemistry Wapahani’s Drew Brant doesn’t think most teams in Delaware County have.
“I’ve been playing with Collin Hoots and other guys since intermediate ball, about 10 years ago,” Brant said. “We haven’t finished writing history yet. We still have to finish the puzzle that no one else in the county has done.”
The first time Delaware County sent a baseball team to the state championship game was in 1980, when former coach Donald Fields led Northside to Bush Stadium in Indianapolis, falling 1-0 to DeKalb in eight innings.
“Programs are very dependent on a feeder system and kids being able to play from a very young age,” Fields said. “We haven’t had a real strong feeder system since the junior baseball program. Now kids are dependent on traveling teams and their parents.”
Wapahani coach Brian Dudley led his team to the 2004 state championship game, where the Raiders suffered a 2-0 loss to Hammond Bishop Noll. Since then, the Raiders have made it back to semistate three times, winning just once.
Dudley noted the difficulty in winning the state championship trophy, needing to win seven consecutive postseason games to be crowned the best in the state. It’s a taxing gauntlet without a perfect combination of talent and luck.
“It’s hard to get to the state finals, no matter what sport it is, every step gets a little tougher,” he said.
Collin Hoots, a senior outfielder, has an older brother who used to play for Wapahani, Tanner Hoots. The younger sibling has taken advantage of being on just the fourth baseball team from Delaware County to make it to the state championship game. He says part of the problem is a lack of top-notch teams in the local area.
“Teams in this county have the reputation of being good, but not good enough to get to the next level,” Collin Hoots said. “And I give (my brother) crap every day about it. I’ll joke around and tell him ‘How far did you make it again? Because I’m going to state.'”
It’s a lot further than nearly every Delaware County baseball team has ever gone.