FORT WAYNE—"We're the defending champs of this sectional until someone knocks us off," related Adams Central baseball coach Dave Neuenschwander and that statement proved true as the Jets pounded out a 5-1 win over Woodlan in the championship encounter of the IHSAA class 2A sectional final at Indiana Tech Monday evening.
Adams Central pounded the ball quickly in the opening inning with their first two batters producing the first run of the game as Dalton Combs belted a solid double and Isaac Luginbill was right behind him with a RBI-scoring single.
Three pitches and it was 1-0, a lead Adams Central would never relinquish.
The Jets weren't finished in the first, however, as Luginbill eventually scored on a fielder's choice by Landon Brunner.
"We've talked a lot about that recently, about scoring early and scoring first. Statistics show the team that scores first has a much higher percentage of winning games. Our coaches put together a strong game plan and the kids followed it. Their mindset coming in was confident. The way we won Friday (a seventh inning rally against Bluffton) showed a lot of excitement and that carried over to today," the coach added.
The victory for the Jets advances them to the IHSAA regional at Wabash High School this Saturday where they will play the winner of the Wabash sectional (Manchester and Northfield are playing for that title tonight) at 1 p.m. In the opening game at 11 a.m., the winners of the Oak Hill and Delphi sites will battle.
Bryce Fuentes started for the Jets and went three and a third innings before the starter in the AC semi-finals earlier in the day, Isaac Luginbill, was summoned in to finish the game.
Fuentes and Luginbill limited Woodlan to just two hits in the game but the pesky Warriors always seemed to be hanging around as four walks and four AC errors kept the bases occupied.
There were two strong moments for AC hurlers. In the fourth, Woodlan finally got to Fuentes as a fielder's choice and two walks loaded the bases and Chapin Wentz was hit by a pitch forcing in a run. Neuenschwander went to the mound to bring in Luginbill and the sophomore hurler fanned the first batter he faced and got the next to tap back to the mound to end the Woodlan threat.
In the sixth, Woodlan's Nate Wiederman, who had both of the Warrior hits in the game, belted a long triple to left field as the leadoff hitter. He stayed at third base as lonely as the Maytag repairman as Luginbill then zipped off three straight strikeouts to keep the AC lead at 4-1.
"That sixth inning was huge for us. I went out to the mound to talk to Isaac and told him that run didn't mean anything. I think it calmed him down a little and he responded with the three strikeouts," Neuenschwander said, adding he liked the way Fuentes started the game saying "I told Bryce 'you're a senior and this is a senior game.' He pitched that way and gave us a good start."
The Jets added two insurance runs in the third when Luginbill smashed a 1-0 pitch well over the outfield fence for a solo homer and then Nathan Busse doubled, went to third on a wild pitch and rode home on Landon Brunner's sacrifice fly to left.
The final run of the game for Adams Central came in their half of the sixth as Warren Burkhart's slicing fly ball to the left field corner fell in just inside the foul line and went for a triple. Combs' ground out to second earned him a RBI and a 5-1 AC advantage.
Luginbill, who was the winning pitcher for the Jets in the championship game of the sectional last year as a freshman, tamed the Warrior bats in the seventh getting the first two, walking the third and then getting the final out on a fly ball to Burkhart in centerfield.
The win Monday also avenged two regular season losses to Woodlan by the Jets with Neuenschwander noting "we didn't want someone to beat us three times in one year."