Brent Glasgow, Indianapolis Star
INDIANAPOLIS – No. 2 Cathedral stayed unbeaten and advanced to Class 4A’s baseball final four with a 5-2 regional championship victory Monday night over Roncalli at Decatur Central.
The Irish (27-0) will face Columbus North (17-12) in Saturday’s semistate for a trip to Victory Field.
Monday’s contest occurred two days later than planned, following Saturday’s postponement due to a faulty sprinkler.
“They were loose on the way here, really focused and hungry,” first-year Cathedral coach Ed Freije said. “They found a way to get it done.”
Roncalli (19-8-1), the defending 4A champ, advanced to the regional final with a roster rebuilt after massive graduation losses.
“If you told me, after graduating 10 and building a team of basically all sophomores and juniors, that we’d be back at this point with a shot, not to mention without our No. 3 and 4 pitchers due to injury, that’s a heck of a job by our team,” Roncalli coach Aaron Kroll said.
Jared Poland made Roncalli starting pitcher Colten Panaranto pay for back-to-back walks in the first inning with a two-run triple.
“We knew we were facing a good pitcher, so we tried to be patient and get guys on base,” Freije said. “Those runs really helped our confidence.”
Down 3-0, Roncalli loaded the bases to start the fourth. Panaranto followed with a two-run single, but Cathedral got three straight outs to prevent further damage.
“If we get a hit there and tie it or go up, maybe it’s different. I don’t know,” Kroll said.
After a balk put runners on second and third in the sixth, Evan Uhland came home on a wild pitch and Kevin Flood followed with an RBI single for the final margin.
Cathedral pitcher Jack Phillips gave up three hits and three walks and struck out five in six-plus innings, then gave way to sidearm hurler Tommy Kafka, who ended Roncalli’s season in the seventh.
“We knew coming into the season that pitching would be a strength,” Freije said. “Tonight it was Jack and Tommy K.’s turn. They showed real composure.”
The Irish now sit two wins from a state crown and undefeated season.
“These kids have been phenomenal,” said Freije, a 1999 Cathedral grad who played for longtime Irish coach and 500-game winner Rich Andriole. “Our goal wasn’t necessarily to win them all, but to go out and compete, and that’s what they’ve done.”