Trinity Lutheran’s baseball team will get another shot at making school history.
Returning to the Class A Loogootee Regional, the Cougars are staying focused in preparation for a shot at their first-ever title.
Following Lanesville and Loogootee’s first-round matchup at 11 a.m., the Cougars (14-8) will take on Northeast Dubois at 1 p.m. Saturday.
The championship game is scheduled for 8 that night.
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“We need to take it one step at a time,” Cougars senior Ross Kruse said. “We need to play the game as it goes. Our pitching has been really good and our defense has been backing them up. It’s really going to come down to if we have our bats or not.”
The Jeeps (19-6) have a team batting average of .331 through 24 games, led by 32 hits from junior Brandon Merkel.
They have 40 hits that went for extra bases, including 30 doubles and 208 hits as a team total.
Their pitchers give up 3.98 runs on average, and junior Case Eisenhuit and senior Peyton Hurt each have five wins on the mound.
“They’re probably very similar to us,” Cougars coach Matt VonDielingen said. “Talking to (former Trinity coach) Bob Tabeling, who has known their program for a number of years, he said that they’re a very hard-nosed, scrappy team. They come to play and we need to be ready for them.
“Looking at teams we’ve both played, we’ve both beat Orleans by a similar margin. Barr-Reeve beat them, but we beat Barr-Reeve. It’s a very limited sample size because you never know who they pitched. Obviously they’re a good team otherwise they wouldn’t have gotten to where they are, just like us.”
For the Cougars, their defense has propelled them to the next stage of the postseason.
A pair of pitchers will look to dominate the batters’ box.
Senior Jake Moore, the Cougars’ ace, who is coming off a no-hitter in the West Washington Sectional semifinals against Orleans, and junior Jake VonDielingen held Crothersville to two runs in a five-inning victory.
Trinity defeated CHS 14-2 on Monday for the sectional title, but that’s behind them.
“With our sectional title, it’s not as big a deal as it has been in past years,” Cougars senior Sam Crick said. “I think this group of seniors is focused on a higher goal. We’ve been ready, and we will be ready when it comes.”
Moore has played in 13 games, starting 10, and has a record of 6-3 on the mound. VonDielngen is 6-2 in nine appearances.
The Cougars have given up just 105 hits this season and 47 earned runs while striking out 201. Moore has 98 strikeouts in 2017 with an ERA of 1.80.
“We’re going to need good pitching performances, but we’ve had those all year, and I don’t know what that wouldn’t be the case this weekend,” coach VonDielingen said. “I think if we scratch out three for four runs each game, I think our defense will hold up for us.”
Coach VonDielingen said that they will make a decision on who pitches in game one after watching the other semifinal.
“The good news for us is that we get to watch Lanesville-Loogotee first before we make our decisions,” he said. “That helps us a little bit, but still if we don’t win the first one there isn’t a second one. We will have to attack it as such.”
At the plate, the Cougars have amassed 194 hits. Moore leads the Cougars with 30 hits, senior Kendall White has 28, VonDielingen 24 and senior Nick Mensendiek 22.
Knowing offense will make the difference, the Cougars are looking for a nice balance of patience and aggression.
“If we see the first fast ball, we’re going to have to take it,” Mensendiek said. “We need to hit the ball because the pitchers are going to throw us fast balls.
In their two sectional games, the Cougars combined for 16 hits.
Last season, Lanesville edged Trinity 2-1 before going on to beat the Jeeps 5-4 in the regional final. The Eagles then defeated Clay City 3-2 in the Jasper semistate before falling to Daleville 4-0 in the state championship game in Indianapolis.
The Eagles have a 16-6 record this season while Loogootee is 10-16.
In the final regular season game, LHS defeated Trinity 8-3.
The Eagles out-hit the Cougars 7-4 in the game, but Trinity amassed five errors in the game.
If they had it their way, the Cougars would get a rematch with the Eagles.
“We really want Lanesville in the final game,” coach VonDielingen said. “If we could script it, it would be us and Lanesville in the regional championship. Obviously we gotta get past a very good Northeast Dubois team first, but if we had our choice that’s the matchup we want.”