Friday, June 9, 2017

BASEBALL SHOWCASE: Lewis shines again for Providence in 2A regional final

CLARKSVILLE – It has been a common occurrence for the Providence Pioneers the last couple of seasons when ace pitcher Jake Lewis is on the mound.
Get an early lead and let the talented left-hander take care of the rest.
Lewis and his Providence teammates followed that successful script again last Saturday at Memorial Field. The senior southpaw threw a one-hitter in leading the No. 2 Pioneers to a 3-1 victory over No. 3 South Spencer in the Class 2A Providence Regional championship game. It was the first time in program history that Providence has won the regional two seasons in a row. It was the Pioneers’ sixth regional title overall.
“This regional this year is a lot better than it was last year,” Lewis said. “I mean it was the same teams, but both of the teams (Providence played) were a lot better. South Spencer was a really good team coming (into the regional). We came in with the mindset that we knew we were a good team and we knew what we had to do.”
The defending Class 2A state champion Pioneers (28-4) will face third-ranked Indianapolis Ritter (26-3) in the Class 2A Plainfield Semistate at 1 p.m. this coming Saturday. Ritter and South Spencer (27-6) shared the No. 3 ranking in the final Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Class 2A poll.
Lewis, an Eastern Kentucky University recruit, struck out eight and walked two. The lone run he gave up was earned.
“He was magical tonight. That’s who he was last year. The last three weeks he hasn’t had mastery of his pitches. We did a little fine-tuning this week,” Providence head coach Scott Hornung said. “That was a hell of a team. That was a hell of a game, and for him to come out and throw that type of a game was so impressive.”
Like he has done throughout his outstanding career, Lewis did an efficient job of mixing his fastball, change-up and breaking pitches.
“My fastball and change-up were working really well. I was really feeling confident in the (strike) zone,” Lewis said. “This week I worked on staying within myself because I knew my defense was really good and they will always have my back. I was just trying to throw at barrels (of the bats). I was just attacking the zone.”
Lewis, who is Providence’s all-time wins leader, had a no-hitter for 6 2/3 innings. But it got broken up in the top of the seventh inning when the Rebels scored their lone run.
Lewis began the inning by issuing a walk to South Spencer junior Manning Webb. Webb then advanced to second and third base on consecutive wild pitches.
“I was like, ‘What are you doing?’ I needed to focus back in,” Lewis said. “I think I was getting a little like I was ready to get it over with, so that caused me to get up into the zone.”
Lewis, though, bounced back by striking out Rebel seniors Sammy Rowan and Caleb Helms.
That was followed by South Spencer first baseman Matthew Bunch lining an RBI single into left field to drive in Webb. But after Lewis walked Dalton Schneider, the Providence starter sealed the regional title by striking out Rebel senior Brice Stuteville.
Once Lewis fanned Stuteville, the Pioneers celebrated with a huge dogpile on the mound.
“I was doing some praying, so that never hurts,” Hornung said about the last inning while watching Lewis work out of the game-ending jam. “He just stayed composed. We just had some eye contact about you’ve really worked hard for this and just keep pushing. He’s incredible. He’s (the record holder) for career wins for our school pitching-wise for a reason. He’s done a lot of good things in four years.”
Along with his standout pitching performance, Lewis arguably had the most crucial plate appearance in the game.
With one out in the bottom of the third, Providence got its next three batters on base against Helms, who started for South Spencer. Junior Nathan Proctor started the sequence with a single to center field. That was followed by teammate Juston Betz reaching first on an error, and Pioneer right fielder Kaden Williams smacking a base hit to center to load the bases.
Lewis worked the count full versus Helms, where he fouled off three pitches with one of them being laced down the right-field line that was a hair foul. Lewis then laid off on the payoff pitch – a curveball – to get the walk and drive in the Pioneers’ first run.
“I was just trying to get a (sacrifice) fly or just drive something,” Lewis said. “I was just battling and I fouled a few off and I hit that one down the line. After that, I thought that he was going to come with something off-speed or something that he will try to get me to chase. He came with a curveball. It was a close pitch, but I laid off of it.
“We needed something. It’s just that run that gets you going. It picks the guys up.”
Louisville commit Timmy Borden, the next batter, knocked in two more runs with a single to left to give Providence a 3-0 lead.
“(Lewis’) at-bat was exceptional. It gave Timmy a chance to come up and deliver his hit,” Hornung said. “It was critical – a great at-bat.”
Williams and Providence senior Parker Graf each went 2-for-3, with Williams scoring a run.
Hornung said this year’s quest to repeat as state champions has been challenging. But he mentioned it is gratifying to witness his squad pull out huge victories against very formidable opponents.
“This is harder than last year in a lot of respects,” Hornung said. “This is harder just having to go through the steps again and get that job done. Last year in sectional and regional, we didn’t really have any challenges so to speak where we had to play a white-knuckle kind of game. We knew this was going to be that – we knew it was. It’s so good to be able to make good plays in big situations, and we did.”

Pioneer starter Reece Davis earned his 10th win of the 2017 campaign with a complete-game three-hitter. The junior right-hander allowed one unearned run, while striking out six and walking one.
With the victory, Davis tied the single-season program record for most wins. After the regional final, Hornung praised the outings from both Davis and Lewis last Saturday.
“I felt our pitchers today were on. If we continue to get that pitching like we did today, it makes it really tough on the other teams,” Hornung said.
Graf went 2-for-4 with two RBIs and a run scored. Providence catcher Adam Uhl also was 2-for-4. Lewis scored two runs along with collecting a double and driving in a run.
Senior catcher Gavin Napier got all three hits for Austin (20-8), going 3-for-3 with a run scored. Eagles’ starter Drew Buhr was the losing pitcher. The sophomore right-hander threw 5 2/3 innings, giving up all nine Providence runs (six earned) on eight hits. Buhr recorded three strikeouts and two walks.

S. Spencer         000 000 1-1 1 3
Providence        003 000 x-3 6 2
W – Jake Lewis (9-2). L – Caleb Helms (7-3).
Records – Providence 28-4, South Spencer 27-6.

Providence        300 033 0-9 9 2
Austin                 001 000 0-1 3 2
W – Reece Davis (10-1). L – Drew Buhr (7-3). 2B – Lewis (P). 3B – Kaden Williams (P).
Records – Providence 27-4, Austin 20-8.

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