EVANSVILLE — It's always one of the busiest days on the high school sports calendar.
This Saturday presents the combination of high school baseball regionals and softball semistates. Nine total programs across Southwestern Indiana remain in both tournaments. Some were expected. Others have been surprising.
This year marks a format change in regard to baseball. The regional is only one game with the semistate requiring two victories — the same setup as the basketball tournament this past winter. That places a premium on quality pitching.
Let's take a look at each team remaining in the Courier & Press coverage area, starting with baseball. All times in CDT.
Class 4A baseball at Braun Stadium: Castle vs Jeffersonville, 3 p.m.
There's no secret to how the No. 9 Knights got this far. They have the best pitching in the area. It starts with Auburn signee Cameron Tilly, who notched 13 strikeouts in the sectional championship. Would you bet against the potential MLB Draft selection in a one-game scenario?
The key for this team, by its own admission, is hitting. The Knights (22-6) are trending up in that phase with nine hits in each sectional victory. They scored four of their six runs against North with two outs. Sounds like a winning formula. Jeffersonville (18-11) rallied from three runs down to beat rival Floyd Central in the sectional. Brett Denby, a Georgia signee, had two hits and earned the win in relief.
Class 3A baseball at Jasper: Memorial vs Southridge, 10 a.m.
One of the better pitching matchups you'll find. Indiana commit Matthew Fisher has become a true ace for Memorial with a 1.47 ERA and 76 strikeouts in 47 2/3 innings. Southridge counters with senior Mick Uebelhor, one of the top arms in the Pocket Athletic Conference, who tossed a two-hitter against Jasper in the sectional semifinal.
Whichever team finds any success at the plate should have the edge. Memorial (19-8) has talent across the lineup, including but not limited to Clark Gries (.392), Purdue commit Thomas Lynch (.355) and Wabash recruit Caleb Ellspermann (.329). Yet, it has searched for consistency at various points this spring.
The Raiders (22-5) were the unbeaten PAC champions. A few contributors from the 2021 state championship team remain, including infielder Hudson Allen, but many others have stepped into prominent roles this spring. For a program with four sectional titles in its past five seasons, winning has become the expectation.
Class 2A baseball at Mitchell: Perry Central vs Mitchell, 2 p.m.
Perry Central wasn't the first or second choice to be here a week ago. The Commodores (16-7) knocked out No. 1 Forest Park and North Posey to win their first title in program history. Garrett Scamahorn (13 strikeouts in the sectional semifinal) could be a tough test on the mound. The team is currently without a head coach after Ryan Hoover was terminated due to alleged theft.
Led by junior Ben Seitzinger, No. 6 Mitchell (25-6) is the favorite but needed walk-off hits against Linton-Stockton (in 11 innings) and Sullivan to win their second sectional title in three years.
Class 1A baseball at Braun Stadium: Evansville Christian vs Barr-Reeve, 11 a.m.
Admit it, you were stunned. So was Evansville Christian to an extent. Here are the Eagles, in their first year of postseason eligibility, playing for a regional championship.
ECS (9-18) earned this right with a surprise victory over No. 4 Tecumseh on Monday. After an injury-filled regular season, the Eagles are mostly healthy and played their best in the sectional. They'll need another good performance, notably from junior Jayden Gates on the mound, to pull off another stunner. No. 1 Barr-Reeve (26-3) has won 25 straight games which included an 8-3 win against ECS on April 12.
Now, let's shift our sights to softball. The PAC is represented by three teams, including a pair looking for a return trip to state. Meanwhile, North is the first SIAC program to reach this stage since 2018.
Class 4A softball at Center Grove: North vs Roncalli, 10 a.m.
The best postseason run from the Huskies in 17 years continues to the weekend. The reward is a game against the defending state champions and the best high school pitcher in the country. That's not just hype. Florida recruit Keagan Rothrock, who boasts a 0.53 ERA and 298 strikeouts, is that good. Roncalli (29-3) is also more than just her.
North (25-3) understands the challenge but also embraces the opportunity. Take your best shot against the best. Although the Huskies will need their top performance to date, they have the right ingredients: An ace pitcher in Maci Warner, a stellar defense and a balanced lineup. The winner faces No. 9 Mooresville or No. 12 Pendleton Heights.
Class 3A softball at Jasper: Gibson Southern vs Silver Creek, 12 p.m.
The No. 2-ranked Titans last played for a state championship in 2015. They may have the necessary pieces again. First, their lineup is based around speed and contact yet has just enough power to keep you honest. Secondly, they play good defense behind a potentially dominant pitcher in Alexis Tucker (0.86 ERA). Gibson Southern has won 12 straight and is averaging 11.3 runs in the postseason.
No. 9 Silver Creek (27-9) goes as pitcher Hallie Foley goes. The Dragons had 10 hits in their regional win over Connersville, led by sophomore Lily Allen with three. The winner faces Beech Grove or No. 6 Tri-West.
Class 2A softball at Forest Park: North Posey vs Cascade, 12 p.m.
All the top-ranked Vikings do is win. Yes, they needed nine innings to beat Sullivan on Tuesday. No one ever said it would be easy. North Posey (26-0) is now two wins away from returning to the state championship. Next is No. 6 Cascade (24-4), a team that features a young lineup and the pitching duo of Megan Walker (1.13 ERA) and Grace Gray (1.51 ERA).
The key for the Vikings is simple: If newly minted Miss Softball finalist Erin Hoehn (0.35 ERA, 261 strikeouts) plays like she has all season, it's tough to beat this team. The offense has been deep and consistent enough to give her help. The winner plays Triton Central or Hauser.
Class A softball at North Daviess: Tecumseh vs Clay City, 10 a.m.
The defending state champions and No. 1-ranked team in Class A arguably faced their toughest test on Tuesday, a 3-2 extra-inning battle with No. 2 Barr-Reeve. Don't expect the Braves to let their guard down with a field full of ranked opponents. Clay City (18-9) was the strongest opposition to Tecumseh in last year's run. The Eels return with a young roster led by sophomore Lizzy Sinders (.478 average, 2.03 ERA).
The Braves (22-9) have the lineup to out-hit anybody. The regional win also showed how much they can now rely on pitching to either stay in or win big games, plus they have one of the best defenses in Class A. Just ask Barr-Reeve. No. 7 Lutheran or No. 6 Lanesville would await in the evening.
Follow Courier & Press sports reporter Kyle Sokeland on Twitter @kylesokeland.
This article originally appeared on Evansville Courier & Press: IHSAA: Nine Evansville-area baseball, softball teams still standing