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Two-out offense leads PH past Tribe

Apr. 14—CONVERSE — Two-out magic is the life-blood of high school baseball.

Coaches crave it because it can deflate opponents and make the difference in high-leverage contests.

After largely failing in two-out scenarios until late in Friday night's second-round victory against Lapel, Pendleton Heights put on a veritable clinic in Saturday's 9-2 victory against Anderson to extend its record for Nick Muller Madison County Tournament championship game appearances to 16.

The Arabians (7-2) were 7-for-16 batting with two outs and scored eight runs in those clutch situations against the rival Indians (3-2).

"Somehow we pulled yesterday's (game) off," PH coach Matt Vosburgh said of a 5-2 victory against the Bulldogs that included a four-run rally with two outs in the seventh inning. "And I think it was just a breath of relief to come out and get back into our own rhythm. We still got a lot of work to do when it comes to two-strike, two-out hitting, but that's one of our goals at some point in the game is to get a two-out run.

"That kind of can lead to us gaining momentum but also taking away some of theirs."

The momentum shift against Anderson came swiftly and suddenly with two outs in the third inning.

It started quietly with Jordan Williamson being hit by a pitch to put runners on first and second base.

Then Colton Frank laced a 1-1 pitch down the left-field line for a two-run double that broke a scoreless tie. When he scored two pitches later after Brayden Stevenson's fly ball was misplayed in right field, the Arabians had all the runs they needed.

Stevenson was effectively wild during his four-plus innings on the mound, striking out 10 batters and walking four while not surrendering a run or hit.

It was a crucial performance ahead of a potentially big week for Pendleton Heights. The Arabians built Saturday's lineup with a mid-week series against Hoosier Heritage Conference rival Shelbyville in mind, and there is not yet a set date for the tournament championship game to be played.

After rain washed out play Thursday and Friday, the consolation bracket was canceled and the weekend games were moved to Oak Hill's artificial turf field.

Pendleton Heights will face Alexandria — a 5-3 winner against Elwood in Saturday's second semifinal — for the title whenever a date can be determined by the schools' athletic directors.

With uncertainty surrounding the immediate schedule — and more inclement weather forecast for next week — Stevenson's dominant outing was vital to save arms on the rest of the pitching staff.

"We know who he is on the mound," Vosburgh said of Stevenson, who is the team's top catcher and went 2-for-5 at the plate against the Tribe. "He's got lights-out stuff, and so his next step is to be able to control that (velocity). He's gonna continue to work and continue to add to that because he is a hard worker,

"He continues to develop his baseball skill set, so we want to able to use him in different ways. And this today was a good opportunity for that."

Two-out RBI singles by Rylan Keesling and Williamson — who went 3-for-4 to lead the Arabians' attack — pushed the lead to 5-0 in the fourth inning.

And Pendleton Heights added three runs in the fifth after the first two batters were retired. The key hits in that frame were a ground-rule double by Colin Axel-Adams, an RBI single by Mazon Saxon — who was 2-for-4 — and another single by Williamson.

The only run that scored before the second out came in the sixth when Axel-Adams drew a bases-loaded walk with nobody out to make it 9-0.

Anderson's first run came in the bottom of the inning on a double by Isaac McKenzie to the right-center field gap that also represented the Indians' first hit.

Kadyn Kendall and Kaydin Hutchison added back-to-back singles with one out in the seventh, and Carter Hunt sent Kendall home while reaching on a fielder's choice.

Pendleton Heights is seeking to extend its record for Muller championships to 10. But the Arabians haven't claimed the county crown since 2019.

The unknown wait to play the final is not an obstacle Vosburgh is concerned with.

"I guess it's going to be up to the ADs to figure out a mutual date moving forward, but our goal is just to win every game," he said. "... Whenever we can get this next game in, we'll get in it and try to win that one, too."