Tri-County North won its fair share of close baseball games this spring.
But in the Division III sectional final against Versailles, the No. 2 seeded Panthers could not capitalize with runners in scoring position early and came up short in its bid for a second straight sectional championship, falling to the Tigers, 2-1, on Thursday, May 22 at Greenville.
Following a shaky first inning, Versailles pitcher Jace Barga settled in and kept Tri-County North off balance.
After stranding a pair of Panthers on the base paths in the first, Barga retired the next 14 batters.
“They gave everything they had. We fell short. I think we tried too hard. We put way too much pressure on ourselves,” North coach Larry Gray said following the loss. “I’m not going to look at the negatives. I’m going to look at the positives. What these guys have done, the seniors, all the way down is priceless.”
After a scoreless first two innings, Versailles broke through with a run in the third, but it could have been much more.
Barga led the inning off with a single to center. Derek Bornhorst executed a bunt to perfection and reached on a throwing error by North pitcher Nick Gray, which allowed Barga to advance to third and Bornhorst to second. Dan Borchers walked to load the bases with nobody out.
Brett McEldowney followed with a single to right to score Barga and give the Tigers a 1-0 lead.
But Nick Gray settled down and struck out the next three batters to limit the damage.
Versailles threatened again in the fourth, leaving a runner stranded at third. In the fifth, the Tigers put the first two batters on base and failed to score.
Versailles added to its lead in the top of the sixth.
Jake Wenning walked to lead off the inning. Barga followed with a single to right, advancing Wenning to third. Barga went to second on a throw to third. Dan Borchers grounded out to third to score Wenning and make it 2-0, Tigers.
North, which was held to one hit by Barga over the first five innings, scored its lone run in the bottom of the sixth. Kyle Edgin, who was 2-for-3, tripled with one out and scored on a single by Austin Hutchins. Hutchins then stole second but was left stranded when Barga struck out the next batter to end the threat.
North’s senior class leaves behind a winning legacy.
The senior class finished their varsity careers with 73 wins, a regional final appearance, two sectional runner-ups and a Cross County Conference championship.
“It’s a lot of wins. Not too many losses,” Coach Gray said. “This group stayed focused. They were easy to coach. (They were) fun to coach. (It was) very emotional for us as coaches and players. I got to watch these kids, the juniors and seniors, ever since they were 11-years old, watch them grow up. I wouldn’t trade one day.”
The Panthers finished the season 18-4.