Franklin baseball advances, Whiteland falls shy in sectional play


After giving up a pair of runs to Columbus North in the fourth inning Wednesday night, Braeden Burton took matters into his own hands.

The Franklin junior led off the top of the fifth with a home run to right center. That sparked a five-run inning, sending the Grizzly Cubs to a 5-3 first-round victory and a Friday semifinal matchup with East Central, a 9-7 winner over Whiteland in Wednesday’s nightcap at the Class 4A Shelbyville Sectional.

“To get down there 2-0, we just needed something,” Burton said. “I just wanted to put the ball in play, and the next thing you know, it was going, and that started something. We have a five-run inning, and here we are. Last year, they got us, and I was on the losing end on the mound. But this year, I really dug deep, and I really wanted it.”

Following Burton’s blast, a walk, a sacrifice and an error plated the tying run. An RBI double by Landen Basey drove in the go-ahead run, a two-out RBI single by Blake Smythe made it 4-2 and the fifth run scored on a dropped popup.

“Play with momentum — that’s what our team does best,” Franklin coach Jeremy McKinney said. “We’re never out of the fight. We always stay in the fight. When something happens that doesn’t go our way, we kind of brush it off, we don’t let it sit with us and we keep moving on.”

The Bull Dogs tried to stage a comeback in the bottom of the seventh when Sam Perry led off with a double, went to third on a wild pitch and scored on a groundout by Connor Hensley. But after a walk, Burton got a popup and a groundout to end it.

Burton finished with a six-hitter.

“He did an awesome job,” Franklin coach Jeremy McKinney said. “That’s an unbelievable job from that kid. He battled very hard. I thought about pulling him there in the seventh, and I’m really glad I didn’t. I trust Burton to get us out of it.”

Meanwhile, the second game was a back-and-forth affair. East Central scored twice in the first off Drew Helton, Whiteland scored three times in the bottom of the first and the Trojans retook the lead with two in the top of the second before the Warriors went ahead 7-4 with four in the bottom of the second.

East Central then used a four-run fourth to go back ahead 8-7. The Trojans added an insurance run in the sixth.

“It was one of those, you tip your cap to them,” Whiteland coach Scott Sherry said. “They had good, quality at-bats. They put the ball in play. They earned it. We didn’t make too many errors. They hit the ball, and it was one of those games.”

The Warriors put the tying run in scoring position in the bottom of the seventh after Blake Riddle singled, went to second on a wild pitch and third on a one-out single by David Collins, who then stole second. But Trojans reliever Ryan Ott came up with a strikeout and a groundout to end it.

Helton went 2 for 2 with a two-run homer and Peyton Dickens went 2 for 3 for Whiteland. Kayden Wilson had three RBIs.

“Drew has done a great job of keeping people to low scores, and A.J. Reynolds for them, too, of keeping the score down, so I didn’t expect that high-scoring game and that balls would be flying around the yard early in the game like that,” Sherry said.