Senior staff writer
Roncalli’s hopes for back-to-back state baseball championships ended Monday with a 5-2 loss to 4A No. 2 Cathedral in the Decatur Central Regional title game.
The showdown had been postponed from Saturday due to a sprinkler malfunction that created a swamplike area in the left field foul territory.
The Rebels were doomed by Cathedral starting pitcher Jack Phillips, who allowed only three hits in seven innings, and two outstanding plays by Irish first baseman Jake Andreoli. The junior infielder snagged two hard-hit line drives – one in the fourth with one out and Roncalli on second and third and one that ended the game with an unassisted double play.
“With two strikes, Mark (Cobb) put the ball in play, really hard, right at the first baseman who had to leap for the catch,” Roncalli coach Aaron Kroll said. “I’m really proud of our team and our year, especially how hard these guys fought.”
The Irish (27-0) struck for a 3-0 lead after two innings before Roncalli junior pitcher Colten Panaranto settled down and allowed only two more hits before senior Jacob Wormann took over with one out in the fourth.
The Rebels closed to 3-2 in the fourth when Panaranto doubled to right field to score juniors Dylan Williams and Nick Schnell. With one out, Cobb lined out to Andreoli for the second out. The Irish added two insurance runs in the sixth, which ended on Schnell’s cut-off throw for the third out in a rundown between third and home.
The Rebels ended 19-8-1 in a definite rebuilding campaign.
“This season was more than decent for me,” Kroll said. “If you would have told me after graduating 10 players and fielding a team with mostly sophomores and juniors and without our No. 3 and 4 pitchers due to injuries – this was a heck of a job that was accomplished by this team.”
The young Rebels were attempting to become only the third back-to-back state baseball champions following Jasper in nonclass in 1996 and ’97 and 4A Fort Wayne Carroll in 2010 and ’11.
Roncalli reached the regional title game with a five-run sixth-inning outburst Saturday to defeat Avon 6-2.
Tied 1-1 with two outs and sophomore Brian Kenney on first after a lead-off single, the Rebels struck for consecutive hits by Pete Baker, Hayden Harper, Williams, Schnell and Tommy Hansen. Williams had the big blow with a double that scored Baker and Harper for a 4-1 lead.
Schnell, a junior, extended his hitting streak to 10 consecutive games. The right-handed junior pitcher had to bear down several times to keep the Orioles from scoring more runs.
Schnell reached the mandatory 120-pitch limit with one out and a runner on first in the seventh. Panaranto closed the game with a diving catch by Schnell, who moved to center field and a strike out.
Kroll praised Schnell as the best player in the state.