Warsaw senior Josh Shapiro follows through with his pitch during Thursday evening's sectional game against Northridge. Photos by Gary Nieter
Warsaw senior Josh Shapiro follows through with his pitch during Thursday evening's sectional game against Northridge. Photos by Gary Nieter
MIDDLEBURY – Facing off for the second time in a couple of weeks, the Warsaw and Northridge baseball teams engaged in a back-and-forth contest for the first few innings of their sectional quarterfinal matchup at Northridge Thursday evening. The Raiders would string together five runs in the top of the fourth to take their first lead of the game, not looking back in their 9-3 victory over the Tigers.

Warsaw starting pitcher Josh Shapiro began the game locked in, retiring the top of the Northridge line up in order, puttingan exclamation point on the 1-2-3 inning with a strikeout of Raider three-hole hitter Max Horner.

The bottom of the first was not as drama-free for the Northridge defense. The Tigers had no trouble putting the ball in play, but the Raiders certainly had troubles fielding it. The visitors on the scoreboard made two costly errors in the inning, the first allowing Jette Woodward to reach first on what should have been a double play. The second came on an overthrow by Northridge third baseman Jethro Hochstetler on a ground ball hit by Shapiro that would allow Woodward to score and give the Tigers an early lead.

Shapiro ran into a bit of trouble on the mound in the top of the second, giving up his first hit and walk of the game to put runners on first and second with just one out. The hurler would battle though, generating some soft contact for the final two outs to keep the Warsaw lead intact.

The lead was doubled in the bottom half of the inning thanks in part to another miscue by the Raider defense. With Tiger left fielder Khareus Miller on first after reaching on a fielder’s choice, a pickoff attempt by Northridge starter Qade Carrington went way over the head of his first baseman, allowing Miller to hustle all the way to third. A few pitches later, he’d be brought home on a groundout by shortstop Wyatt Stapleton to extend the lead to 2-0.

The next time up, Northridge would get a run back. Shapiro ran into some more trouble, putting runners on first and second with two outs. Unlike the previous inning, he was not able to escape unscathed. Hochstetler would rope a single to the opposite field to score his teammate from second and make it a one-run game once again. With runners now on the corners, Shapiro was able to avoid further damage by forcing a groundout to short.

The game’s new score didn’t last long though. The bottom of the third saw the Tigers string together three singles, the first two by Kellan Bailey and Cohen Heady, and the third by Hunter Dippon, resulting in Bailey scoring and Warsaw going up by two once again. The team had a chance for more with runners on second and third for Miller, but Heady would be picked off to end the inning.

The back-and-forth affair continued in the top of the fourth with Northridge seizing all momentum with a huge inning. The Raiders continued to see Shapiro better as the game went along, culminating in four hits in a row off of the righty. The hits would lead to four runs and the first Northridge lead of the game. Still with only one out in the inning, sophomore Brandt Martin would come on in relief, giving up one more run. After leading for a majority of the game up to this point, Warsaw suddenly found itself trailing by three.

Despite a leadoff single from Miller in the bottom of the fourth, the frame would be the first of the game the Tigers would not score a run. Luckily for the team, new pitcher Corbin Johnson stopped the bleeding in the top of the fifth, striking out the first two hitters he faced en route to a 1-2-3 inning.

Bailey doubled to lead off the bottom half of the inning, but was cut down trying to score from third on a grounder, leading to the second straight scoreless inning for the Tigers. The Raiders were able to extend their lead in the top of the sixth on a two-run single by Murphy Zimmerman to extend the lead to five. Running out of outs, the Tiger hitters needed some answers in the final two innings.

Outside of a two-out double by Stapleton in the sixth, the Tiger offense was unable to get anything going. The same could not be said for the Raiders, who added an unearned run in the top of the seventh off of Kyle Showley.

With his team’s backs against the wall, Woodward led off the bottom of the seventh with a walk. He wouldn’t make it any further than first base as the next Tiger hitter hit into a 1-6-3 double play to put the Tigers on the brink. The game would end moments later as Shapiro flew out deep to left.

Warsaw will return next season.