SEYMOUR – The celebration dogpile on the pitching mound was 11 years in the making.
Floyd Central ended years of frustration, winning its first Class 4-A baseball sectional championship with a 7-0 victory over Seymour on Tuesday afternoon at American Legion Field. The No.3 Highlanders (27-3) advanced to the regional on Saturday at Evansville’s Bosse Field.
They’ve never been there. When the Highlanders won their last title in 2004, the regional was a one-game format and Floyd Central hosted it. They might have seen it when watching the movie “A League of Their Own,” but now they’ll take their first steps on that hallowed turf.
And the Highlanders could go much further, now that the weight of their world has been cast away. They were tired of hearing about the drought. It is over.
“We know,” said Floyd’s Brandon Smith, one of the heroes with a three-run home run that allowed the Highlanders to exhale. “He (coach Casey LaDuke) tells us every year. It’s one of the greatest feelings I’ve had in my entire life. I have no words.”
There are words, of course. Starting with the pitching. Kyle Beach (8-0) allowed only one hit in five innings. Add in offense, too. Smith’s blast that rattled the squirrels in their home among the pine trees behind the left-field fence was the big blow. And finish with defense. Seymour (15-12) committed six errors.
Floyd Central jumped ahead in the first inning on three straight singles, with Colton Kimm driving in the run. Smith made an error, and a hit batter hurt the Owls when he crushed a 1-0 curveball for a 4-0 lead. He admitted he was fooled, but he adjusted.
“I didn’t think I hit it that good,” Smith said. “I got lucky. It was a momentum changer. After that, you could feel it was ours and we were going to get it.”
The Highlanders added more in the fourth inning — Evan Jewell’s lead-off double set the stage — and the fifth, with the help of two Seymour errors and two wild pitches.
“It’s a goal we set from the beginning of the season,” Beach said. “It just came together.”
LaDuke, now in his 16th season, had to smile as his team converged on reliever Trey Fulton when the last fly ball was caught. Floyd Central had entered the last two tournaments as the favorite and had watched others move on. This one didn’t escape them.
“It’s hard,” LaDuke said. “People don’t understand how hard it is. It’s a tough road. Our goal was to get here, then see what happens. We have a great opportunity to go further. But we had to take of business here. And we did that.”
Beach struck out three and allowed only a fourth-inning single by Mitchell Moore. He didn’t want to leave the mound.
“He was good,” LaDuke said of Beach. “I would have loved to keep him in, but I wanted him to come back on Saturday.”
Floyd Central will face Bloomington South (16-12) in first game of regional play at noon. No.5 Center Grove (25-5) will meet Evansville Reitz (18-10) in the second game, with the final that night at 8 p.m.
Justin Sokeland can be followed on Twitter at @golfguru55
Sectional final at Seymour
Seymour 000 000 0 – 0 2 6
Floyd Central 103 110 x – 7 7 0
WP – Kyle Beach (8-0). LP – Ryan Wieneke (2-4). 2B – Evan Jewell (FC). HR – Brandon Smith (FC). Records – Seymour 15-12, Floyd Central 27-3.