Beginning tonight, the Indian Creek baseball team is on a mission to play as deep into the postseason as it can.
If the 16 regular-season games are any indication, anticipate the Braves having fun in the process.
“It’s been a wonderful ride, really,” said senior lead-off hitter Sam Willis, a starter in the outfield since early in the 2013 season. “We’re playing well as a team, and this is probably the most fun I’ve had playing baseball.
“I’ve gone to school with some of these guys since kindergarten. We’ve known each other basically our whole lives, which gives us a good connection on the field, too.”
Indian Creek takes a 14-2 record into opening-round play at the Class 3A Danville Sectional. The Braves face Northwest in a 7:30 p.m. start.
By virtue of two sectional titles in the past three seasons, the host Warriors are considered the favorite to make it to the Crawfordsville Regional on June 4.
Recent history hasn’t been as kind to Indian Creek.
The program’s only two sectional crowns were in 1971 and 1973.
First-year coach Eddie Willis’s squad plans to lean heavily on a pitching staff anchored by right-handers Eric Braughton and Trevor Ankney. The duo accounts for 54 percent of innings worked by Braves pitchers and 53 percent of the strikeouts.
Braughton, a junior, owns a 5-1 record to go along with 41 strikeouts. Ankney is a freshman who leads Indian Creek with 50 strikeouts and has a 3-1 record.
Max Walls is 2-0 in 16 innings. Dawson Read (14 IP), Dylan Sprong (7 2/3) and Jared DeHart (7) also have contributed to the Braves’ pitching staff.
At the plate, the Braves have yet to hit a home run. They make up for it with a daring on the base paths that has resulted in 81 steals.
Walls and Willis tied for team honors with 13 thefts apiece, while senior first baseman Tyler Parks has 12 and Dawson 11.
It’s Read, a sophomore shortstop, leading the way in batting average with a .412. Others above .300 are sophomore infielder DeHart (.361), Willis (.357), Walls (.338), Ankney (.333), Sprong (.311) and Parks (.306).
“Our batting has come a long way since the beginning of the season,” said coach Willis, whose team opened with 13 consecutive victories before dropping a 6-5 decision at Eastern Hancock on May 19.
“We started the (Eastern Hancock) game strong. We were up 5-1 and then the wheels came off.”
Indian Creek’s other loss was by a score of 5-1 to eventual Johnson County Tournament champion Center Grove in the semifinal round.
That loss told coach Willis as much about his players as any of the wins the Braves had experienced prior to it.
“All the pitchers wanted to play against Center Grove. Our kids weren’t intimidated at all. It was just another game to them,” he said. “We started pretty composed in that game, made a couple of errors and got a little frustrated.
“But we’ve seen some really good pitching from teams lately, and that will help us at sectional.”
CENTER GROVE SECTIONAL
Franklin Central vs. Franklin Community, 5:30 p.m.
Martinsville vs. Greenwood, 7:30 p.m.
Wednesday winners, 11 a.m.
Center Grove vs. Whiteland, 2 p.m.
Championship game, 6 p.m.
Danville vs. Beech Grove, 5:30 p.m.
Indianapolis Northwest vs. Indian Creek, 7:30 p.m.
Wednesday winners, 10 a.m.
Greencastle vs. Indianapolis Washington, noon
Championship game, 7 p.m.
Greenwood Christian Academy vs. Edinburgh, 6 p.m.
Southwestern (Shelby) vs. Waldron, 10 a.m.
Morristown vs. Wednesday winner, noon
Championship game, 10 a.m.