WASHINGTON TOWNSHIP | The Porter County Conference Tournament semifinal between Morgan Township and Hanover Central came down to a battle of bullpens and the Cherokees pitchers spelled relief.
Ryan Klikus and Joe Dougherty combined on 4 1/3 innings of one-run work as Morgan (20-4) knocked out the defending champion Wildcats 9-4.
Tyler Frye needed no help in Saturday's second game, going the distance in the Senators' 6-2 victory over Hebron (16-8).
"I felt if I came in and didn't get us out of it right away, it could've killed any energy we had," Klikus said. "I haven't been throwing strikes lately, so I was kind of nervous, but I had a good bullpen (session) and got my stuff together, so I knew I could do it."
Klikus entered in the third with Morgan down 3-1 and kept the Wildcats in check into the sixth, when Dougherty got out of a two-on, one-out predicament.
"In tournament time, you can't let someone hang out there too long," Morgan coach Jason Dorshorst said. "Ryan did one heck of a job. He stopped the bleeding, which was huge. We told Joe he was in short relief. He was due for a bullpen (workout) anyway."
Morgan scored three runs in the fourth to go in front, taking the lead for good on a Dougherty double. Will Swisher singled in two with two outs in the fifth and the Cherokees tacked on three more in the sixth.
"With what (Hanover) did at South Central (a 28-15 opening-round win), we knew we had to keep pouring it on," Dorshorst said.
The Cherokees banged out 13 hits against three Wildcats pitchers.
"Tyler (Trepton) said he felt dizzy and Jesse (Wilkening) said he was a little sore," Hanover coach Doug Nelson said. "This time of year everybody's a little dizzy and sore. You've just got to get through it. We had kids pouting about how hot it was. We didn't do well in the face of adversity. We've got to get a little mentally tougher."
Dorshorst and Klikus didn't minimize the significance of beating Hanover, the round robin and defending PCC tourney champion.
"I feel we could've beaten them the last time," Klikus said. "I think the only way we can lose is if we beat ourselves."
In the second game, Frye allowed only a sixth-inning, two-run home run by Kyle Hernandez, who became Hebron's career RBI leader with the blast to center.
"Location. I kept it mostly down," Frye said. "I've hit my spots most of the time."
Frye allowed seven hits, but walked none.
"We don't walk too many as a team," Washington coach Randy Roberts said. "Especially on a hot day like today, that's what you want. Throw a bunch of strikes, make them put the ball in play. Keep everybody active."
Before Frye even threw a pitch, he was up five runs. The Senators (19-8) did most of their damage in the first inning, scoring five runs with two outs. Nine hitter Dan Connelly capped the outburst with a two-run single.
"We didn't get a whole lot out of the top of the order, but the bottom of the order came through for us," Roberts said. "That's as well as (Connelly)'s hit the ball."
Damon Wallace almost got out of the inning unscathed, only to throw errantly to first on a Corey Holderread bunt. A walk and two hits led to four more runs.
"It was a tough play," Hebron coach John Steinhilber said of the bunt. "(Wallace) settled down. I thought we battled. We just waited too long."