PORTER TOWNSHIP | Sapped by the lingering effects of dehydration, Alex Anderson could only watch helplessly from the dugout as Hebron lost to Culver in last year's Class 2A Boone Grove Sectional final.
"Brad (Stooksbury)'s mom snapped a picture of them holding up the trophy and we've been putting it in the dugout ever since," Anderson said.
Teammates kidded Anderson about the heat before Monday's championship, and all the Hawks were laughing by game's end. Anderson clubbed a two-run homer and scored three runs as the Hawks (18-8) pulled away late from Rochester for an 8-2 victory and the school's first title since 1977.
"I'm blessed with great kids," said Hawks coach John Steinhilber, who also coached the school to a sectional basketball crown. "Alex has been waiting 365 days to play in a championship. This is all for the (Hebron) guys who didn't get here who busted their butts playing baseball. It's great to finally break through and it's not like we're resting on this, either."
Hayes, one of several four-year veterans on the team, went the distance, ending the game with a flourish by snaring a line shot back to the mound and flipping to Damon Wallace at first for a double play.
"I don't know how I caught it," Hayes said. "I was just trying to throw strikes. I knew I could count on my defense. We all stuck together.
"Our freshman year, we knew we'd get better every year. This was our main goal. We made it to the finals last year, we wanted to take the next step, and we did that."
The Hawks' lefty fanned a dozen and walked just one. Both Zebras runs were unearned.
"He's a gamer," Steinhilber said. "He's pitched all the tough games for us. I went out there to see how he was doing and he basically said I wasn't taking him out of the game. That's what you want to hear."
Anderson's blast to right center provided some cushion in the sixth, making it 4-1. After Rochester (19-10) got one back, Kyle Hernandez emptied the loaded bases in the seventh with a drive off the top of the fence in right. He scored on a Kyle Joyce double.
"We wanted to make a statement the last couple innings that we're a hitting team," Hernandez said. "We've been waiting for this (title)."
Hebron advances to the Whiting Regional.