The third hitter in Mooresville’s lineup stands 6-foot-6, sports a full beard and greets people with a vise-like handshake.
Nick Wiley seemed this imposing and then some against Franklin on Wednesday.
Wiley, a senior pitcher/first baseman, crushed a pair of home runs to lead the second-ranked Pioneers past the Grizzly Cubs, 8-4, in the opener of the Class 4A sectional at Center Grove.
The No. 1 Trojans defeated Greenwood, 21-3, in six innings in the second contest to set up a much-anticipated showdown Monday morning in a 10:00 semifinal.
Franklin ends its season with a 16-10 record.
Wiley reached down to basically golf his first blast, a three-run homer, over the center-field fence off Cubs starting pitcher Jackson Henry in the top of the third inning, giving Mooresville the lead for good at 4-2.
The Indiana Wesleyan commit added a solo round-tripper in the fifth that made it 8-3.
“I didn’t really get much legs in the first one,” Wiley said. “It was just a curveball, and I just tried to shoot it over the second baseman’s head. I got a little bit in front of it.
“The second one was a 3-2 count and it was going to be a fastball. I had to be on time.”
Franklin jumped to leads of 1-0 and 2-1 before Wiley’s initial long-distance delivery.
Freshman leadoff hitter Landen Basey scored the game’s first run in the bottom of the first inning. The shortstop walked on four consecutive pitches from Wiley, took second on Max Clark’s infield single and was standing on third base thanks to Logen Devenport’s bunt. Senior second baseman Nolan Netter brought Basey home with a sacrifice fly to right field.
Mooresville (25-3) tied the game in its half of the second as senior Jack Robinson powered a solo home run into the parking lot beyond the left field fence.
The Grizzly Cubs went back on top a short time later, loading the bases and making it 2-1 when Wiley hit Devenport with a pitch.
Wiley wasn’t the only pitcher helping his own cause with the bat. Henry doubled to right in the bottom of the third and eventually slid home on a wild pitch to cut the Pioneers’ advantage to 4-3.
Mooresville created more scoreboard separation with three runs in the fourth inning. The Grizzly Cubs’ final run of the season came when senior Drew Doty homered in the fifth.
The game did contain some controversy.
A Basey bloop single to short center with one out and a Clark walk put Franklin in business in the sixth inning. The next hitter, Devenport, appeared to foul the baseball off his foot, though the three umpires conferred and eventually ruled it a live ball, allowing Mooresville to record a rather unusual double play.
“He fouled it off his foot, and everybody kind of stopped,” Grizzly Cubs coach Ryan Feyerabend said. “Not one of the three umpires there saw it.”
Henry and Clark produced two hits apiece in the loss.
While disappointed his squad’s season had come to an end, Feyerabend expressed great pride in the resilience the Cubs demonstrated all season.
“We battled through a lot of injuries, a lot of adversity. The kids gave us everything they had all year,” Feyerabend said. “It was literally next man up every day. But Mooresville is a really good team. We made a few mistakes and they made us pay for it.
“It’s a disappointing end of the season, but we definitely put up a good fight.”
In Wednesday’s nightcap, Center Grove (25-2-1) put three runs across in the top of the first inning, four in the fourth and 13 in the sixth to coast into the semifinal round.
Junior right fielder Garrison Barile and Evans homered and were among the four Trojans with two or more hits, along with Grant Sawa and Drew Culbertson. Sawa and Evans both had three hits.
Sophomore Landen Smith led the Woodmen (7-15-1), hitting a two-run home run in the bottom of the third.