The sixth inning that befriended Whiteland only three days earlier this time displayed its teeth.
No, it wasn’t smiling.
Columbus North cashed in on three Warrior errors in the top of the sixth on its way to winning the championship game of the Class 4A East Central Sectional, 7-2, on Monday afternoon.
Whiteland, which had scored four runs in the sixth inning of its 7-0 semifinal shutout of the host Trojans on Friday, finishes with a 13-14 record.
“It just kind of bit us today,” Warriors coach Scott Sherry said. “I don’t think we’ve given up six runs in an inning very often all year, if at any time. It’s just one of those things.
“The errors happened, and they all just seemed to happen at the same time.”
Whiteland scored a run in the bottom of the first inning and another in the fifth to take a 2-0 lead. Junior Drew Helton, the Whiteland starting pitcher, was solid to that point, allowing three hits with three strikeouts.
Then came the sixth, and everything changed.
Senior leadoff hitter Luke Harmon got things started for the Bull Dogs, reaching first on an error. He advanced to second base on another error and made it home on yet a third consecutive fielding miscue by Whiteland.
Columbus North (17-10) followed with consecutive singles courtesy of junior first baseman Zach McLean, left fielder Blake Osbourne and senior catcher Trenton McCain. The No. 9 hitter, junior Dillon James, then laced a two-run single to center field to make it a 5-2 score; Harmon’s second at-bat in the inning resulted in a run-scoring single that made it 6-2.
The Bull Dogs sent 11 batters to the plate in the sixth. What might have been Whiteland’s 11th sectional title overall, and first since 2014, appeared less and less likely.
Columbus North, which sent a total of 18 batters to the plate in the course of the final two innings, rode the complete-game pitching of junior Connor Hensley to its 15th sectional crown. Hensley, who improved as the game wore on, allowed six hits and struck out four. He allowed one Whiteland single over the final 10 batters he faced.
Not exactly the way the six Warrior seniors (Brayden Roy, Peyton Emberton, Kevin Denham, Ethan Shipp, Kayden Ferguson and Donavin Woodall) envisioned the final chapter of their prep baseball careers.
“That’s just baseball. You know, stuff happens, and a lot of pressure,” said Roy, who had one of his team’s two doubles (sophomore Blake Riddle, the second hitter in Sherry’s lineup, had the other). “It was just a bad time to do it, I guess.
“We made some errors, but there are some other things we could’ve prevented. It happens.”
Woodall, Emberton, Denham and sophomore leadoff hitter Maalik Perkins all had singles in the loss.
Riddle’s one-out double to left-center field in the first was followed by Helton drawing a walk. Roy made it to first on a Columbus North fielding error, bringing home the game’s first run.
Whiteland scored a second run after Perkins reached on an infield single and stole second in the bottom of the fifth. He moved to third when a potential pickoff throw wound up in center field, and Riddle brought Perkins home with a sacrifice fly to left.
The Warriors were playing some of their baseball of the season down the stretch, yet were doomed by one substandard inning.
“I just think we had the game under control, and when that inning came up, we just let it slip under us. It’s hard to come back from that,” Emberton said. “What made this team as it is, we were all close. A bond that can’t be broke.”