PORTER TOWNSHIP | It's been about 12 months since Hebron's loss to Culver in the 2011 Class 2A Boone Grove Sectional championship, yet the fire still burns for the Hawks.
"We've been waiting all year to get here," Kyle Hernandez said. "Hopefully, it's our year."
Hebron earned a return trip to the final, dispatching North Judson 10-0 in five innings Saturday. The Hawks (17-8) will face Rochester, which edged Boone Grove 2-1, on Monday.
"It's the game we've been trying to get to," Hebron coach John Steinhilber said. "But we had to get there first."
Kyle Joyce ensured that, blanking the Bluejays on two hits while striking out 10.
"This is what we've worked for, in winter in the gym, in practice," Joyce said. "I was working on my off-speed in the bullpen, but I wasn't really feeling it, so I was going mainly with my fastball. 'Stooks' (catcher Brad Stooksbury) kept calling for it up with two strikes and they kept going for it."
Only North Judson two runners reached as far as second base.
"It helps when KJ's pitching as good as he is," Steinhilber said. "He set the tone with that. He started the finals game last year and he said he was a lot more ready."
Hernandez, Alex Anderson and Damon Wallace each delivered three hits with Wallace scoring three runs and Hernandez tripling and driving in three.
"I was seeing it pretty good," Hernandez said.
Hebron started fast, plating four in the first, and scored in every inning.
"We kept on 'em," Steinhilber said. "We used the week to try to get together as a team. We had a lot of hitting sessions. They all did a good job battling. There were three, four times where we got down two strikes and got hits."
In the opener, Rochester's Travis Wottring doubled in Tanner Hampton with the tie-breaking run in the sixth inning and Aaron Stuart (8-3) made it stand up, striking out the side in the seventh.
"Zac (Wein) made a good pitch," Boone coach Rollie Thill said. "(Wottring) had to go down to get it."
Boone (14-12) scored its only run in the third when Zack Cobb and Jared Thill banged consecutive one-out doubles to left, Cobb's hitting off the top of the fence.
Wein no-hit Rochester (19-9) into the fifth. The Zebras scored when catcher Jason Sawa's throw to second skipped away, letting Carter Screeton trot in from third.
"Zac pitched his brain out," Thill said. "Jason shouldn't have thrown down to second. It was a matter of a bad hop that got through."
The Wolves had the go-ahead run on third with one out in its half of sixth, but Cody Poynter was caught in a rundown on a Tommy Burton grounder to third.
"We told Cody, (go) if you get a good break, if you don't, sit tight," Thill said. "It was sort of an initial reaction. There's not a lot you can do about it."
Wein, one of five Boone seniors, took the hard-luck loss despite allowing just four hits and one earned run in 5 1/3 innings. Cobb, another senior, had two of the Wolves' six hits.
"It's not fun, let alone when one of them is in your own gene pool," Thill said. "It came down to two plays that weren't executed either way. We've got to work on the little things."