Seeking its first baseball regional championship since 1996, Class 4A No. 5 Center Grove lost 4-3 in 11 innings to tournament-host Evansville Reitz in Saturday’s semifinals.
Playing at the historic 5,200-seat Bosse Field, the Trojans (24-6) jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the top of the second on an RBI double by senior catcher Nathaniel Coy.
Center Grove pushed across another run in the third after senior Will Smithey tripled and senior Josh Martin delivered an RBI single for a 3-0 lead.
But the unranked Panthers (19-10) rallied for a tie in the bottom of the third by scoring three runs.
After going eight full innings, Trojans starter junior Jake Cantleberry, who had seven strikeouts, gave way to reliever junior Joey Drury in the ninth.
The Trojans threatened in the top of the 11th with runners at first and second but could not score.
In all, Center Grove left 13 runners on base while Reitz stranded 14.
The Panthers got a big lift with one out in the bottom of the 11th on a triple by Aaron Euler. Looking to get out of the inning with a double play, two intentional walks were ordered by Trojans second-year coach Keith Hatfield that loaded the bases.
But Reitz’s Trevor Ricker laid down a perfect squeeze bunt to score Euler from third for the winning run.
“They’re heartbroken,” Hatfield said of his team. “But we’ve always had a winning program. We have a lot we can build on for next year. This senior group (six starters) is going to be missed. They did a lot of good things for us.
“The guys that are coming back are going to have to step up,” he said.
“There are times when we need to be more aggressive (plate). We’re not there yet, but we’re making strides.”
Bloomington South went on to defeat Evansville Reitz 4-3 in the championship game.