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Lafayette Jeff ends sectional title drought
May 31, 2011Lafayette Jefferson High School
Lafayette Jeff's baseball players had watched others acting out the customary celebrations at Loeb Stadium.
Handshakes and hugs on the mound. Posing for pictures with the championship trophy in the outfield. Chasing the coach with a cooler of water to administer a celebratory dousing.
After seven years as spectators, the Bronchos assumed those roles themselves on Monday night following a 10-2 victory over Kokomo in the Class 4A Lafayette Jeff Sectional championship.
"It's like TV," said senior first baseman Spencer Long, whose first-inning grand slam sparked the victory.
"You see all those players happy and you sit there and ask, are they really that happy? Now that I've experienced it I can actually feel the feeling they feel when they do something well."
Kokomo's young lineup featured four sophomores and three juniors. By contrast, sophomore starting pitcher Peter Ripke was the only non-senior in Jeff's starting lineup.
A nucleus of 10 seniors helped the Bronchos surge into the postseason, where they outscored McCutcheon, Logansport and Kokomo 26-4.
"This year, they put a commitment in as seniors that was unbelievable -- how hard they worked in the offseason and everything," said Jeff coach Scott McTagertt, who won a sectional title in his third trip to the championship gawme.
"We were going to make some sacrifices during the season and move some kids around and do some things to be 100 percent prepared for the sectional. It really seemed to work out and the kids were relaxed and ready to play."
An unlikely case of first-inning déjá vu provided all the offense Jeff needed.
In a 10-0 victory over Logansport in the afternoon semifinals, Brayton Harrington hit a first-inning grand slam. In the championship, Jeff loaded the bases in the bottom of the first on a single, a misplaced sacrifice bunt and a walk.
Long then crushed Kokomo starter Parker Sanburn's 0-1 fastball over the left field wall to make it 4-0. Tanner Hieatt homered later in the inning, giving the Bronchos three home runs in six innings on Monday after totaling seven in their first 29 games.
"That was real clutch," said Ripke, who pitched five shutout innings and scored a pair of runs. "I can ride off that 5-0 lead we took in the first inning. I was just going up there and throwing my stuff."
Ripke, who earned the save in a 6-2 opening-round victory over McCutcheon last Friday, shut the Wildkats down. The right-hander allowed two singles and a walk while striking out two. He benefited from highlight-reel defensive plays from Carlos Campos and Brayton Harrington.
Jeff senior reliever Wes Robledo struck out the side in the seventh. With six victories in their last seven games, the Bronchos believe they can extend their run through the weekend."The stuff we've battled through as a team, and to come out like this, you couldn't end a senior season any better," Long said. "I'm content, but not content enough. I'm hungry. I want some more."