CARMEL – Going undefeated was certainly one of the goals of the Lawrence North baseball team this season.
Starting the season 14-0 gave the Wildcats hope of achieving that lofty goal. But on Wednesday night, LN couldn’t muster the timely hitting it had frequently gotten as Carmel came from behind to capture a 2-1 win at Hartman Field.
The Class 4A No. 5 Wildcats will have little time to dwell on the loss, though, as they face their toughest test of the season Thursday night: a home game against Class 4A No. 1 Cathedral (12-0).
“We’re definitely disappointed we lost,” senior pitcher Nolan Watson said. “But I feel the monkey’s off our backs now, and we don’t have to worry about (going undefeated) anymore. We can go out and play our game.”
The loss dropped the Wildcats to 7-1 in the Metropolitan Interscholastic Conference and 14-1 overall. Carmel, which started 1-6, improved to 3-3 and 7-7.
The last time a Lawrence North team started the season 14-1 was 1999, when the Wildcats finished as state runner-up.
“The kids had some pressure,” LN coach Richard Winzenread said. “They wanted to go undefeated. But we have No. 1 Cathedral (Thursday night). That’s a true test. We were really looking forward to this week.”
The Wildcats left runners on first and third in the second inning and stranded runners at the corners in the fourth.
Greyhounds sophomore pitcher Tommy Sommer pitched well against LN, scattering five hits and striking out 11. He recorded five of the last six outs by strikeout, including striking out the side in the top of the seventh.
The Greyhounds tied the score 1-1 in the fifth on an RBI double from junior center fielder Drew Fox, which scored senior Elliot Shebek. In the bottom of the sixth, Shebek’s RBI single scored senior first baseman Connor Cunningham.
Winzenread said his team has relied on late rallies and key hits to win games, including a 5-3 extra-inning victory on Tuesday against the Greyhounds. But LN stranded six runners Wednesday.
“It’s been a theme the past couple weeks,” Winzenread said. “We’re having some good at bats, but aren’t getting the results. But we’ve found a way at the end of games.”
“We’ve been winning with excellent defense and pitching,” he added. “We’ve been able to get out of some jams this season. We want to make the other team beat us. And Carmel beat us tonight.”
The Wildcats have relied heavily on a strong pitching staff that features Watson, a right-hander, and senior lefty Myc Witty, who pitched on Wednesday. Witty allowed two runs, six hits and struck out seven in six innings. But the Greyhounds recorded five of their six hits in the final two innings.
Through games last week, Watson was 2-0 with a 0.45 earned-run average, while Witty was 3-0 with a 2.95 ERA. Junior Justin Reed is 4-0 with a 0.61 ERA.
“We’re blessed with great pitching,” Winzenread said. “We have talent on the mount, and I feel comfortable whoever we have out there. It’s a different kid every night. This is a fun group to be around. They give great effort, and I enjoy seeing them every day.”
Offensively, Winzenread said junior third baseman Coby Taylor has hit the ball well, which included a pair of home runs Tuesday night against Carmel. Taylor, entering the week, was batting .333 with three home runs and 13 RBIs. Watson is hitting nearly .400, and junior shortstop Tyler Hofmann and junior center fielder Justin Reed are both hitting about .400 with 10 RBIs.
“They’re good on the mound and good behind the plate,” Carmel coach Dan Roman said. “And they’re getting timely hitting.”
That’s all played a roll in the Wildcats winning four games by shutout and six by five runs or more. LN is just a win from matching last year’s win total (15-16).
“We’ve come together as a team and building a lot of trust,” Watson said. “We’re a lot better defensively, and we’re just having fun. We have some veteran leadership, and some of our younger guys are stepping up and believing.”
Roman, meanwhile, is hoping his young team can gain steam from the win.
“We can build off this win,” he said. “We’re starting to get more comfortable at bats, and we could be a scary team (down the stretch).”