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BASEBALL: Stars grab Tigers by the tail

Brody Tanksley

Brody Tanksley is greeted by teammate after laying down a sacrifice bunt. Tanskley also had two hits as BNL topped Princeton 7-4 on Monday afternoon.

BNL closes regular season

with 7-4 win over Princeton

Box score

By Justin Sokeland

With the postseason looming large in the window, with a tournament rematch with No.9 New Albany dead ahead, Bedford North Lawrence treated the regular-season finale as a dress rehearsal for the Class 4-A sectional.

The final trial run, against a quality foe, was a success. Now the Stars must duplicate that kind of performance when it really matters.

BNL completed its countdown to the tournament takeoff with a 7-4 victory over Princeton on Monday afternoon. The Stars (17-10) banged out 13 hits, with some of them of the clutch, 2-out variety, with Brandt Callahan driving in 3 runs, and played flawless defense. Cole Mathews gutted his way through 6 innings on the mound as BNL won its second straight game.

The Stars, still searching for overall consistency, showed why they could be a sectional factor. They now have momentum, and the shortest journey possible, to their first sectional title since 1994. Winning this game was crucial.

Austin Long had two hits and drove in a run with a sacrifice fly.

Austin Long had two hits and drove in a run with a sacrifice fly.

“It was our last chance,” BNL coach Jeff Callahan said. “We wanted to get a win and get some momentum going into Saturday. We wanted to play a good opponent. That’s the kind of team we needed to see going into the tournament.”

The Tigers (14-9) made the Stars squirm as they pounded out 11 hits and stranded 11 runners. Mathews wiggled out of a bases-loaded problem in the second, and Princeton scored 2 runs after two outs were recorded in the seventh. Princeton certainly had its opportunities.

“We left a few guys on,” Princeton coach Jesse Simmons said. “Those runs early on are huge in a game like this.”

BNL got those runs, scoring three in the third. Austin Long launched a sacrifice fly, Brody Tanksley laced a RBI single, and Callahan landed a run-scoring single down the right-field line. The Stars added 2 in the fifth (Jackson Bartlett drew a bases-loaded walk and Garrett Ramsey ripped a hard single to right to score another run) and 2 more in the sixth (with Callahan cracking a 2-out, 2-run single).

BNL third baseman Tanner McBride throws out a runner after making a diving stop.

BNL third baseman Tanner McBride throws out a runner after making a diving stop.

“The last week or so, he’s been pressing,” Callahan said of his son. “But he keeps working hard, like they all do. I was proud of him, as a dad, and even more as a coach. That’s what we needed.

“We’ve seen flashes throughout the year of what we thought we would see consistently. We hit up and down the lineup, a lot of our RBIs were in the bottom part of the order.”

Princeton, down 7-2, didn’t go quietly. Mason Mack, who has been slotted into a late-inning relief role to retire left-handed batters, started the seventh by recording the first out. BNL designated closer Drew Hensley allowed a walk, a single, and a 2-run double by Nathan Watkins before escaping.

“We were able work out of some jams and field the ball behind them,” Callahan said. “If you do those things, it’s going to keep us in ballgames.”

Brody Tanksley records a force out at home plate.

Brody Tanksley records a force out at home plate.

Hensley, Long, Tanner McBride (who made a sensational diving stop at third base), Tanksley and Callahan all had 2 hits each for the Stars. Mathews scattered 9 hits to earn the victory.

Watkins had 2 doubles while Lane Rumpke, Cordell Gooch and Trevor Boyle all had 2 hits each for the Tigers.

BNL will face New Albany in the second semifinal at Floyd Central on Saturday afternoon.

No.8 Jeffersonville will face Seymour in the opening game on May 25 at 5 p.m. That winner will face either Jennings County or Floyd Central, the defending sectional champion, in the first semifinal on May 28 at noon. The championship is set for May 30 at 2 p.m.