Ace strikes out 11 in win
Micah Napper put Silver Creek’s offense in a sleeper hold to lead the North Harrison Cougars to a 2-0 victory over the visiting Dragons Monday and claim the 3A Sectional, ending Silver Creek’s four-year reign.
“We knew it was going to be a close game, so we just tried to stay positive to not let them get in our heads,” said Napper, whose team lost to Silver Creek 10-1 almost a month ago on the same field.
Napper struck out seven of the first nine hitters he faced, and finished with a two-hit shutout with 11 strikeouts for the Cougars (21-8). Logan Murphy matched him zero-for-zero through three innings, but gave up a run in the fourth and one in the sixth for the Dragons (22-7).
“This game was a reminder of just how hard it is to win sectional,” said Silver Creek manager Joe Decker. “We had gotten used to it, and we just ran into a kid who threw a really good game against us today. He was deceptively fast and he was throwing his curveball for a strike. We didn’t strike out more than five times against anybody all year long.”
The Dragons whiffed twice in the first, twice in the second, and three times in the third. They were able to get the first base hit of the game in the fourth when Brahm Whittinghill laid down a perfect bunt down the third-base line. Whittinghill then stole second, but was stranded there when Cody Razer grounded out to Napper to end the threat.
The Cougars responded with the first run of the game in the bottom of the inning. Alex Flock reached on an infield single, stole second, then scored when Konnor Voyles singled to left with two outs.
“That helped me a lot,” said Napper. “Once we got the lead I was determined to hold onto it.”
The Dragons’ biggest threat came in the sixth inning. Bradley Grimes singled to right, stole second, and was able to take third on a fielding error. Whittinghill was hit by a pitch to put a second runner on, but Cameron Cook flew out to right field and Napper escaped the jam.
“It was important for us to stay with them the first couple of innings,” said North Harrison manager Jamie Polk. “Micah pitched his rear end off.”
But there were still three outs to get, and what happened in the bottom of the sixth proved vital. With one out, Flock hit a triple, and Jacob Faith doubled him home to double the lead.
“That run was huge,” said Polk. “It made us relax. It put all the pressure on them.”
The Dragons put a runner on in the seventh when Sammy Barnett reached on a fielding error. But the threat was erased one batter later when Murphy grounded into an inning, game, and season-ending double play, 4-6-3. The Cougars dogpiled on the field. For the first time in five years, the Dragons could do nothing but watch.
Silver Creek 000 000 0 – 0 2 0
N. Harrison 000 101 x – 2 6 2
WP – Napper. LP – Murphy. 2B – Faith (NH). 3B – Flock (NH). Records – Silver Creek 22-7, North Harrison 21-8.