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Central Catholic returns to baseball state finals

June 12, 2012
Lafayette Central Catholic High School

SOUTH BEND — PLEASE CHECK-OUT THE MANY PICTURES! Approaching 125 pitches on the sizzling Coveleski Stadium field turf on Saturday, Central Catholic pitcher Austin Munn wouldn’t wilt.

The high sun beating down on the senior right-hander and his Knights teammates during a Class A semistate game against Fort Wayne Blackhawk Christian could have taken its toll. A tiebreaking three-run rally in the bottom of the sixth inning provided the necessary rejuvenation.

Munn struck out the final three Blackhawk hitters, giving him 13 for the game and securing a 4-1 victory that made Central Catholic the first program to advance to four straight state championship games.

“Playing that game, just how it went down, it was awesome,” said Munn, who scattered six hits and walked three while improving to 10-2. “The defense came together. We started hitting the ball, we started getting runs any way we can, and it was just an amazing feeling.”

Central Catholic, ranked No. 1 in the final regular season coaches poll, extended its postseason winning streak to 25. The Knights go for their fourth straight state championship and sixth overall next weekend.

“The teams before us have really shown us the way, and we’ve just got to keep it going,” said junior center fielder Cowan Olinger, who went 2-for-3 with a run and an RBI.

Through five innings, Munn dueled Blackhawk senior right-hander Matt Kaplanis (7-2). Entering the bottom of the sixth, Kaplanis had allowed two singles and an Olinger fly ball that was misplayed into a triple.

With one out in the sixth, CC’s Evan Kennedy singled. Pinch runner Mitch Witteveen took third when Andrew Hubertz doubled to left center.

Jake Churchill followed with a grounder to short, and Blackhawk’s Reid Zimmerman threw home. With Braves catcher Damon DeJesus obstructing his path to home plate, Witteveen leaped over the catcher’s diving tag attempt and touched home plate for the tiebreaking run.

“I knew it was going to be a close play,” said Witteveen, who started in left field but yielded at-bats to Kennedy, the designated hitter. “Cowan was behind the plate telling me where to slide, angling me. (DeJesus) was right in front of the plate, so I decided to take a leap of faith and tried to jump over him, and it worked out.”

Olinger blooped an RBI single to right center, and Churchill scored on Wiley Lodde’s second RBI groundout of the game. The Knights batted around in the inning and gave their ace some breathing room.

“I had a feeling, because we hang around and have that one big inning usually,” Olinger said. “Evan did a great job getting us going, and Mitch with his slide – that was unbelievable.”

Munn, who had thrown 112 pitches through six innings, struck out the first three hitters in the Blackhawk lineup in the seventh. Munn also struck out the side in the first and, mixing a fastball that touched the mid-80s on the stadium radar gun with a 12-to-6 curveball, fanned at least one batter in each inning.

Munn allowed two of his three walks in the fourth inning, loading the bases with two outs. But he struck out Riley Reimschisel, who had singled in his first two at-bats, with a called third strike to end the threat.

“Making pitches is always a big thing,” Munn said. “I caught him off-guard, which felt good. Ending the inning like that got the momentum back on our side.”

Blackhawk tied it 1-1 in the top of the third when Kaplanis blooped a two-out double down the right field line. CC right fielder Nick Stone crashed into the side wall on the play, but the Knights caught a break when the ball bounced out of play and only one run scored due to the ground rule double.

Had that ball stayed in play, Blackhawk would have scored at least one additional run and taken the lead. Instead, the Knights made history and could make more if they win a fourth straight state title.

“We’re not really thinking about that right now,” CC coach Tim Bordenet said. “We’re just so happy for this group to have the opportunity to go back. For this group of seniors to lead us back there is really special for me and special for them.”

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