WASHINGTON TOWNSHIP | They call him "Mr. Clutch" for his performance on the basketball court and baseball field.
Morgan Township senior pitcher Ryan Klikus lived up to his nickname Wednesday when he shut down state-ranked No. 3 Washington Township 1-0 in the opening round of Class A, Sectional 49 at Senator Park.
Klikus held the powerful Senators in check, one week after his team suffered a 11-1, five-inning loss to Washington in the first round of the Porter County Conference Tournament.
"To bounce back like that, I'll take it," said Klikus, who struck out four while giving up just four hits. "When we came back after that game last week, I told everybody that we hadn't wanted a game badly enough all season against a good team.
"This time, we wanted it more than they did. I wasn't ready for my career to end here."
The Cherokees (15-9) got the only run they needed in the second inning.
Freshman Nick Conner led off the inning with a bunt single. Washington ace Justin Landgrebe got to the ball, but was late with the throw to first.
After a hit batter and two strikeouts, Morgan's Adam Rettinger came through with an RBI single to center for the 1-0 lead.
Landgrebe (6-3) was outstanding the rest of the way. He struck out the side in the third after giving up a leadoff double to Austin Porter, the start of retiring 13 in a row. The hard-throwing lefty struck out 13 and walked three.
But the Senators couldn't string anything together against Klikus. He scattered four hits and got through the top of Washington's order in the sixth, giving up a two-out triple to Landgrebe, who was stranded when Luke Lipinski struck out. Klikus coaxed three flyouts in the seventh.
"I told Ryan and the team after the game, that was without a doubt the gutsiest performance I've seen on the mound in my life," Morgan coach Jason Dorshorst said.
The biggest play of the game came in the bottom of the fifth. Washington's Jake Goodan led off with an infield single deep behind second base, and advanced to third on a passed ball and a sacrifice bunt.
Washington coach Randy Roberts called for another bunt by sophomore Jordan Williams. He laid it down to the third-base side of the mound. Klikus slipped, but freshman shortstop Jake Koselke backed him up and made the play, throwing out Goodan who had hesitated on his way to the plate.
"That was just pure athleticism on Koselke's part," Dorshorst said.
The Senators (22-3-1) had two other base-running blunders earlier in the game.
"You can't win a game that matters with stupid base running and when you don't execute," Roberts said. "We pitched well, but when we had a couple chances we just didn't execute.
"It's always tough to lose your last game. The state ranking and 22-2? That never was a big deal to us anyway. We just played the game the best we could knowing this (sectional) is what matters. It wouldn't be different if we were 2-22, losing the last game is always tough."