GARY | "Hey coach, first one in four years!" Kouts senior second baseman Dan Cullison exclaimed after Saturday's Porter County Conference game with LaCrosse at U.S. Steel Yard.
Thanks largely to Max Everaert, the Mustangs broke a three-year drought in the Railcats' High School Challenge.
The Mustangs sophomore blew away the Tigers, striking out a school-record 18 during a complete-game 2-1 victory.
"Max is capable of that any time," Kouts coach Matt Weston said. "He had two complete-game victories in the sectional last year as a freshman."
To add to the record pitching performance of his young high school career, Everaert also produced the only two runs for Kouts (2-1, 1-0) by knocking in Jake Bekelya and Cullison in the third.
"I got lucky," Everaert said. "I shouldn't have swung because it was high and outside, but I just went with it and took it to right."
Weston said Everaert helped himself out by battilng during the important at-bat, and mentioned Cullison's hustle as a key play in the rally.
"Max protects everything with two strikes and if Dan dogs it on the go-ahead run, then we don't score there," Weston said. "I told everyone on the bench about how that was a good heads-up baserunning play."
Everaert ran into some trouble in the first after allowing three walks, a single, and a run, but that's all the Tigers could muster after he got the two punch outs he needed.
The same thing happened in the second after he fanned the first two hitters, as he allowed three straight baserunners, only to escape the jam by striking out Jared Dyjak to end.
"There were some occasional mishaps. I got frustrated and tried to aim it, but after the third, I got in a rhythm and never looked back," Everaert said.
Everaert really turned it up after that, allowing just five baserunners the rest of the game, while punching out another 12.
LaCrosse hurler Jimmy Rippe didn't do so badly himself, tossing six innings of three-hit ball and adding 10 strikeouts.