By Al Stilley
Senior staff writer
Roncalli’s baseball season ended with the Class 4A state championship trophy and one of the greatest displays of sportsmanship ever seen in a title game in Indiana.
It seemed unfathomable to believe that a 6-5 team at midseason could even begin to make a surge toward the baseball throne room.
Second-year coach Aaron Kroll and even some players admitted that the team just wasn’t jelling at midseason or even when the season ended. They had been through several close games that seemed to prepare them for the tournament.
They finished the regular season with a 16-9 record and a 10-1 loss at Terre Haute North. Afterward the players began texting each other and coming together as a team.
The rest is history: the Rebels – with 10 seniors, four juniors, six sophomores and a freshman – brought home the school’s first state baseball championship trophy.
They rolled through the Ben Davis Sectional. In the Decatur Central Regional they defeated Lawrence North, a team that knocked them from the Marion County quarterfinals, and then came from behind to upend Pendleton Heights for the regional championship.
A Southside finalist in the 4A championship game was guaranteed as Roncalli met Center Grove in the Plainfield Semistate, where the Rebels prevailed.
Roncalli closed the run with a dramatic 3-2 win against No. 1 Zionsville at Victory Field in front of a record state championship crowd of nearly 7,000 spectators June 17.
Again the Rebels saved the best for the last; their last two games were won in extra innings. Pinch-runner Mark Cobb, a sophomore, scampered home as Will Harris beat an infield throw to first for the winning run.
Then Roncalli senior catcher Cody Smith and pitcher Michael McAvene demonstrated the sportsmanship that the school is known for.
Smith saw Zionsville losing pitcher Jack Pilcher face down on the ground; the Eagles lost by a matter of inches at first base. Smith, with his catcher’s shin guards still on, consoled the distraught pitcher.
The moment went viral as photos were shared over social media.
Last week the three players gathered at Victory Field with Channel 13 reporter Kevin Rader to relive those final moments of the season.
Pilcher recalled the moment: “He (Smith) tried to console me. It really helped. It was probably better than anyone on my team could have said.”
The three players agreed that the show of sportsmanship wasn’t that big of a deal; nonetheless, the moment stands as a great display of sportsmanship. And Roncalli’s championship trophy represents a team that put it all together in the tournament.
Zachary Cooper, 18, Greenwood, finished third in 10-meter synchro diving with partner Max Showalter and seventh in individual platform diving last week.
They ranked third in each of the four rounds. The duo earned 76.80 points in the quarterfinals with an inward 3 and 1/2, the same dive that Cooper earned 77.40 points Sunday in the individual finals.
“I could have done a lot better; it just wasn’t my day,” said Cooper, who plans to compete next month against international competition in Italy. “I was a bit nervous but overall calm, but was just off a little bit. I didn’t change anything in my routine.”