Whiteland baseball advances to sectional final; Franklin falls


Brayden Roy didn’t turn in the type of overpowering pitching performance Friday evening that Whiteland teammate Drew Helton had two days earlier off the same mound, but the end result was the same.

Roy threw a two-hit shutout, allowing just one baserunner to advance past second base, to lead the Warriors into the championship game of the Class 4A East Central Sectional with a 7-0 victory over the host Trojans.

Whiteland (13-13) will play in Monday’s final against Columbus North, a 6-3 winner over Franklin in the second semifinal.

“East Central’s a very good hitting team,” Roy said. “They have two kids in the top 10 (of the state) in home runs, one number one, so I was just trying to stay low and out and let my fielders do the work.”

“What a great senior effort,” Whiteland coach Scott Sherry added. “You can’t say enough good things about how he pitched tonight.”

Roy set down the first seven hitters he faced, and even the first East Central hit, a third-inning single by Moses Wheat, didn’t faze him — the senior righty promptly picked Wheat off at first base and wound up getting out of the inning unscathed.

The Trojans (18-8) threatened in the top of the sixth, using a walk, a fielder’s choice and a wild pitch to get runners to second and third and bring the tying run to the plate with two out, but Roy retired Lincoln Wilhelm on a lazy grounder to second base.

With that threat out of the way, Whiteland put East Central to bed with a four-run sixth. Three consecutive base hits to start the frame loaded the bases, and a Kevin Denham single and a Maalik Perkins triple each plated a pair of runners. Roy, who threw 109 pitches on the evening, and his defense took care of the seventh with a double play and a groundout to third.

“We did a good job of not folding under pressure,” Sherry said of his team’s defensive effort. “We made a few mistakes, and we just battled right through them.”

The Warriors took a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the first with a little help from the Trojans. After Blake Riddle and Drew Helton reached on one-out singles, an error on the left side of the infield put Peyton Dickens on board to load the bases. Riddle scored the game’s first run when Roy reached on a fielder’s choice, and an infield single by Donavin Woodall brought Helton across.

East Central avoided greater damage when center fielder Andrew Roy threw out Brayden Roy at the plate after a base hit by Kayden Ferguson.

Riddle scored again in the third, leading off with a double down the left-field line and trotting home two batters later on Dickens’ one-out single to right.

With his pitching staff performing at its peak so far this postseason, Sherry has to like his team’s chances on Monday with Helton — who tossed an 11-strikeout no-hitter in the Warriors’ first-round win Wednesday — likely to get the ball again.

“We knew going into this sectional anybody could win it,” he said. “We’re like everybody else; we’ve had some good starts and bad starts and some in between, but our guys will be ready and we’ll compete. Hopefully we’ll bring it home.”

In the nightcap, Franklin struck first in the bottom of the first, with Max Clark walking, stealing second and coming home on a two-out triple to center field by Beau Baker. The Bull Dogs, though, answered with vigor in the top of the second, taking full advantage of some Grizzly Cub miscues to score five runs on one hit.

Blake Osbourne singled with one out, advanced 90 feet on a botched pickoff attempt, took third on a wild pitch and scored on Joseph Fry’s groundout to first. Kyler Hashman and Dillon James followed with two-out walks to load the bases, and the throw on Tyler Blythe’s infield grounder pulled the first baseman off the bag allowed Trenton McCain to score the go-ahead run. Hashman scored on a wild pitch, and another Franklin error yielded two more runs.

North had a chance to pad its lead when it put two runners on with one out in the third, but Jackson Henry came on in relief of Franklin starter Braeden Burton and recorded two strikeouts to end the threat.

The Grizzly Cubs capitalized on a Columbus North mistake in the fourth inning to cut the deficit in half. The Bull Dogs appeared to be out of the inning when Landen Basey hit a routine ground ball to second with two out and one on, but the throw to first sailed high to give Franklin runners on second and third. After North starter Luke Harmon intentionally walked Clark to load the bases, Henry hit a ball down the third-base line that glanced off the bag and allowed Caleb Funkhouser and Basey to come home, making it 5-3.

Connor Hensley’s two-out single to left field in the top of the sixth scored Dillon James to give the Bull Dogs a little more breathing room; North went on to load the bases but Henry was able to escape without further damage. The senior allowed just three hits in 4 1/3 innings of work.

Regardless, the three-run cushion was enough for Harmon, who finished his night on the mound with 14 strikeouts.