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Hornets fall short of return to state

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LAYING IT DOWN: Rossville senior Dawson Jacoby lays down a bunt during Saturday’s 13-8 semistate loss to Washington Township.
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WHAT’S THE CALL: Rossville catcher Corbin Beard, right, and Washington Township’s Bryce Malamatos look to the umpire after a play at the plate on a sacrifice fly in the fifth inning. Malamotos was ruled safe for the Senators’ final run in a 13-8 win at Plymouth.
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THANK YOU SENIORS: Rossville head coach Brad Scott hugs senior Mark Soiseth outside the stadium in Plymouth after the Hornets’ semistate loss to Washington Township on Saturday. Scott hugged all 11 seniors after talking to his team before they returned to Rossville.
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SHARING THE END: Rossville players gather together before the presentation of the game ball after their 13-8 loss to Washington Township at Saturday’s Plymouth semistate. The Hornet crowd gave them a standing ovation after the final out of the game.
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SNEAKING BY: Rossville’s Payton Dennison got his hand in before being tagged by Washington Township catcher Michael Funk to tie the game at 5 in the second inning. Dennison went 4-5 with a homer, a double, five RBIs and two runs in the Hornets’ 13-8 semistate loss on Saturday.

BY ANDREW KRULL - akrull@ftimes.com

Rossville fell short of its ultimate goal of returning to the state baseball finals losing 13-8 to Washington Township in Saturday’s Plymouth Class 1A semistate, but a large Hornet crowd rose and applauded the squad just after the loss to show their appreciation for three great seasons and head coach Brad Scott took time outside the stadium to hug each of his 11 seniors after addressing the team.

“I’m still fighting them back, man,” an emotional Scott said before being interviewed. “It’s not about the winning and the losing. It’s about saying good-bye to 11 great kids, great young men. They’re going to do great things in life. That’s the hard part.

“Losing it stings, but I didn’t sign up to coach for wins and losses. I do this to hopefully make an impact on a kid’s life and those kids have made a huge impact on my life.”

Scott and many of his senior players talked through the season about returning to the state finals where they lost in the championship game two years ago as sophomores. Two big Washington Township innings ended that dream for the Hornets.

“You wanted to lead them back to victory some way, some how and I wasn’t able to do that today and as a coach you take full blame for that because you should have been able to do something different, you should have been able to motivate them more,” he said. “I’m just so blessed to have had the opportunity to coach them. I came in with them four years ago, so I guess this is my first class to see all the way through. That makes it tough too, there’s always going to be a special place in my heart for these kids.”

Rossville (25-8) jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the top of the first thanks to an Evan Price single to left and a Payton Dennison homer to center, but left two on base to end their half of the inning. The Senators (23-6) responded with five runs of their own in the bottom half.

The first four Washington Township batters got on board with a single, walk, fielder’s choice on a bunt and run-scoring single up the middle by Matt Rogers. Another run scored on a bunt where starting pitcher Evan Price threw home too late and a ground out to short brought in another run for a 3-2 Washington Township lead. Michael Funk singled to right, scoring two more to chase Price before Payton Dennison relieved and recorded the third out.

Rossville answered in the second as Price doubled to left with two outs to bring in Reid Douglas, with Price later scoring on a passed ball and Mark Soiseth singling in Dennison who got under a tag at home. The Hornets left the bases full to end the inning, but had squared the game at 5.

At that point, things seemed optimistic for Rossville as they showed they could put runs on the board in each inning and chased the Senators’ ace William Roberts, who had thrown the bulk of their innings this season, after 1 2/3 innings. Dennison kept Washington Township from scoring in the next two innings, but Steven Hernandez did the same for the Senators.

The game turned in the bottom of the fourth, with Chaz Brown reaching base on an infield error on a hard-hit line drive. After two ground-ball singles loaded the bases, Brown scored on a wild pitch, another run scored on an errant pick-off attempt at third by catcher Corbin Beard (with Scott protesting batter interference) and the final baserunner came home on a sacrifice to make it 8-5. Rogers singled to right and the next batter walked, with both coming home on a double to center by James Hernandez for a 10-5 Senator lead.

Kirby Meeks relieved, hitting the first batter he faced. Both runners moved over on a sacrifice, with Hernandez scoring on a balk call (again protested by Scott) on the first pitch to the next batter and another run scored on a wild pitch making it 12-5.

“We walked some guys, made an error or two and beat the ball around there and they capitalized on every little mistake we made today,” Scott said. “Hats off to Washington Township and we wish them nothing but luck.

“... It was uncharacteristic,” he noted of the walks. “Our pitching has been on point all year and defensively we’ve played clean behind them. I don’t know if some of those walks today translated to the defense being more on their heels than their toes and ready for the pitches.

“You get behind hitters you’ve got to throw the fastball, just put the ball over the plate. A good hitting team like they were, they’ll make you pay.”

The only really hard hit ball in the seven-run inning was Hernandez’s double.

“I don’t think we pitched awful,” Dennison said. “It just didn’t go our way unfortunately. There were a lot of ground balls that if we were playing defense a little bit different they could have been made and those could have been game changers. ...

“Just made a couple errors, walked a couple of kids. It’s baseball unfortunately. You can come out any day and get beat and that’s kind of what went down today.”

The Hornets battled back again in the top of the fifth, with Meeks doubling past third and Douglas and Dawson Jacoby walking to load the bases. James Hernandez relieved after the first walk. With one out, Dennison doubled to deep center bringing all three runners home, but Hernandez got out of the inning leaving a runner on third and first.

“They capitalized with runners in scoring position,” Scott said. “I don’t know the stat right now (13 left on base for Rossville to three for Washington Township), but I know we left a lot of runners on base, a lot of runs out there. You can’t teach the timely hit. Some days you get the timely hit, other days you don’t. Today, we didn’t.”

The Senators added another run in the bottom half. Rossville went back to Price on the mound after two opening walks by Meeks and Washington Township added their final run on a Roberts sacrifice fly to center.

Adam Terrell opened the sixth with a double for the Hornets, but a courtesy runner was stranded. Dennison singled in the seventh (capping a 4-5 day with five RBIs and two runs) with one out, but the Hornets couldn’t generate anything afterward to end the game.

The loss ended a three-year run for Rossville that has included three sectional championships, two regionals and a state runner-up finish. The Hornets have gone 68-29 over that period, with Dennison, Soiseth, Beard, Jacoby and Saylor playing significant roles in all three seasons.

“When we came in with these seniors, there weren’t a lot of wins,” Scott said. “That’s no disrespect to the teams before. It’s just a special group. Baseball in the greater Lafayette area is tough. It’s a strong area for baseball. This group was able to compete and take it to the next level and really put this program on the map. They did a lot of great things for their school and their community. They have nothing to hang their heads about.”

“We gave it our all and unfortunately it fell short,” Dennison said. “It sucks but it is what it is.

“I think we left this program where we should be able to compete for a sectional each year if not go farther than that. We kind of showed the young kids what it takes to win close games and face good competition. I have all the faith in the world that these guys can go out and win another sectional and go even further.”

“The kid (Dennison) should be small-school player of the year,” Scott said after another impressive performance at the plate. “There’s no doubt in my mind. … What can you say about that kid? We’ve known what Payton Dennison is and I think a lot of people know what Payton Dennison is now. The kid is just a straight up competitor.”

He believes that the Hornet baseball program is set up well for the long haul, but doesn’t expect a senior class like this one to be replicated.

“We’ve got some young kids that are good ballplayers and we think we have something in place to compete in the future,” he said. “Now, do I think that we’ll have a special group like this every year? it’s not going to happen. … You don’t have talent like this in a small-town community every year. We may not have this kind of talent again in 50 years. It’s just a special group.

“When I look back at this team, the first thing you’re going to think about is that we won the regional championship and we got beat in the semistate, but honestly I’m going to remember showing up to practice and Dawson Jacoby and Kelton Saylor clowning and joking with me, PD (Dennison) working his tail off, just the characteristics of the people I got to coach and the young men I got to coach.”

Washington Township will play University in the Class 1A championship game on Monday at Victory Field in Indianapolis. University beat Tecumseh, 4-1, to advance from the south region. 

HORNETS 8, SENATORS 13

At Plymouth

Rossville 230 030 0 — 8 12 3

Wash. Twp. 500 710 x — 13 9 2

Rossville ab r h bi

D. Jacoby 3 1 1 0

E. Price 5 2 2 1

P. Dennison 5 2 4 5

C. Beard 2 0 1 0

M. Soiseth 4 0 1 1

K. Saylor 2 0 1 0

A. Terrell 4 0 1 0

K. Meeks 4 0 1 0

R. Douglas 3 2 0 0

E. Homco 0 1 0 0

Totals 32 8 12 7

Washington Twp. ab r h bi

Totals 25 13 9 9

Pitching ip h r er bb so

Rossville

E. Price 2.2 4 5 5 2 1

P. Dennison 2.2 5 6 4 1 1

K. Meeks .2 0 2 2 3 0

Washington Township

W. Roberts 1.2 6 5 2 2 1

S. Hernandez 2.1 3 2 2 2 0

J. Hernandez 2 2 1 1 2 1

B. Malamatos 1 1 0 0 0 1