By Justin Sokeland
BEDFORD – Rather than requiring a minor miracle, Bedford North Lawrence slugged out a major triumph in the tournament rematch with Jennings County.
The surging Stars, who had to scramble like cat herders to score 5 runs in the final inning and pinch the Panthers during the regular-season clash just 8 days ago, exploded for a 12-0, 5-inning conquest in the opening game of the Class 4A sectional on Wednesday afternoon.
BNL (19-10) pounded out 15 hits, scored 7 runs during the third inning, and roared to its seventh consecutive victory. The Stars advanced to the Saturday semifinal, awaiting Floyd Central.
New Albany and Jeffersonville, those old river rivals, will clash in the second semifinal, with the championship game set for Monday at 1 p.m..
Mercy, as old-time wrestling icon Handsome Jimmy Valiant used to loudly exclaim, that was pretty. Dalton Nikirk and Trevyn Stiles (with 5 RBIs) stroked 3 hits each, BNL lashed 6 doubles, and everyone in the starting lineup had at least one hit during the mercy-rule triumph.
“We told the kids not to wait until the bottom of the seventh to win the game,” BNL coach Jeff Callahan said, and his team took that instruction quite literally. “Anytime you win, it’s good. And to win in that fashion is even better.”
BNL blasted to a 3-0 lead in the second as Nikirk laced a double to deep center, Garrett Watson singled, and Stiles smoked a single to right for the first run. Colton Brown followed with a RBI hit and Ethan Baer added a sacrifice fly.
The Stars sent 11 batters to the plate in the third and collected 8 consecutive hits. Nikirk, Watson (double), Stiles (double), Whitt Callahan (double) and Baer (double) drove in the runs.
“We hit the ball well, we hit the ball hard,” Callahan said. “Up and down the lineup, everyone was producing and contributing. You have to be able to depend on everybody.”
Stiles capped his breakout day, and the BNL attack, with a 2-run double in the fourth.
“I just tried to keep my weight back, trying to teach myself not to get ahead of myself,” Stiles said. “I finally got that done. Jumping on them early was definitely a key. Last time we played them it was rough. We really wanted to prove our point, show we can win the sectional this year.”
Watson earned the win on the mound, working 4 innings and allowing only 3 hits while fanning 5. Braydon Brown notched the final 3 outs.
Watson and Brown added 2 hits each.
“We have a lot of confidence, we’re hitting the ball well up and down the lineup,” Callahan said. “We have to pitch and play defense. We will have a tough task on Saturday.”
“We should be confident, but we have to take it one step at a time,” Stiles said. “We can’t take anything for granted.”
The Highlanders stopped Seymour 4-0 in the second game on Wednesday night. BNL and Floyd did not meet during the regular season.