BNL salvages consolation
game of tournament, 3-2
By Justin Sokeland
Ben Barker had played the outfield only once all season, and during this rare start only one ball came his way all day. His one shining moment saved Bedford North Lawrence during the consolation game of the Orval Huffman Invitational.
Barker, with two Pike runners on base, made a diving catch in right field of a twisting, wicked line drive to preserve BNL’s scratched-out lead as the Stars edged the Red Devils 3-2 on Saturday afternoon.
With two outs in the sixth inning, with Dakota Terrell on in relief of BNL starter Austin Long, Pike’s Jordan Garrett gouged a liner directly at Barker, who had been fighting a little boredom out there as the previous 17 outs were recorded. He froze, took a few steps toward the foul line, then hit the ground to snare the sinking ball and keep the Stars from sinking altogether.
“When he first hit it, I was like ‘C’mon Ben,'” BNL coach Jeff Callahan said. “He got over there and got it. He made the play of the game. If he doesn’t make that catch, they score at least one.”
An old adage in baseball states “the ball will find you.” Barker, with most of his appearances this season as a pinch runner, had to find that baseball.
“At first, I thought it was right at me, so I kind of stood there,” Barker explained. “Then I realized, ‘Uh, oh.’ So I went over there and it was fading away a little bit.”
Never fear. He got it, making the most of his opportunity.
“You have to keep a positive attitude,” Barker said while waiting for his chance. “Do what you can do and don’t worry about the other things.”
The Stars (16-10) needed it. They had to scramble from behind twice against Pike (6-16) to avoid a disastrous day. Two losses in their own tournament, with the postseason looming large in the window, would have been tough to take.
Pike, which lost to Mooresville 9-0 in the first round, proved tougher than its record. The Devils took a 1-0 lead in the first as Malachi Hamblin walked, was sacrificed to second, stole third and scored on a ground out. BNL answered that quickly as Michael Underwood reached on an error, Cole Mathews singled, and Long drove in the run with a single to center.
Hamblin, a speedy lead-off man, was a factor again as Pike reclaimed the lead in the third. He was hit by a pitch, went to second when Long threw away a pickoff attempt, cruised to third on a wild pitch and scored on a ground ball.
The Stars had difficulty solving Pike pitcher Clayton Warner, but they came through in the fourth as Tanner McBride was hit by a pitch, Brody Tanksley thumped a single to left, and Brandt Callahan reached on a fielder’s choice to load the bases. Jackson Barlett’s sacrifice fly chased home the tying run.
BNL got a clutch hit for the lead in the fifth. Underwood walked, Long was plunked by a pitch, and Tanskley came through with the two-out single to right for the eventual winning run.
“In close games like that, that’s what it often comes down to, the team that can get the two-out hit,” Callahan said. “Brody did a nice job.”
Long (3-3) earned the victory, striking out 6 in 5 2/3 innings. He scuffled with his command, walking 5 while throwing 106 pitches, but he allowed only 2 hits. Drew Hensley, stepping into the closer’s role, worked a flawless seventh for the save.
“If your starter can go into the sixth and only give up two runs, you feel like you’re going to be in the game,” Callahan said. “He has a few things to tweak to get a little command. He can be real effective.”
Tanksley and Mathews had two hits each for the Stars, who will conclude the regular season on Monday against Princeton, the final preparation before facing Class 4-A No.8 New Albany in the sectional at Floyd Central on May 28.
“That’s the real deal,” Callahan said. “If we come out and play the first two or three innings like we did against Northview, it will be a short stay in the tournament. The great thing about Indiana athletics is everybody gets invited to the tournament.”