FULTON | Saturday's Class A Caston Regional title came about 12 months later than expected for Washington Township.
"Our group last year was a state-caliber team," winning pitcher Chase Peiffer said following an 11-3 win over North White in the championship.
That Senators squad didn't advance as far as the regional, falling in the sectional on its home field to Morgan Township. Substantial graduation losses tempered expectations, at least for those who didn't wear the pinstripes and the curly W.
"Nobody expected a lot from us, coming into the season," Bryce Collins said. "We fed off that more than anything. We wanted to prove people wrong."
Over the course of the season, Peiffer and Jake Goodan developed into a strong 1-2 with Collins and others filling in behind them. Washington shared the Porter County Conference round-robin title, captured the PCC tournament and has won by no fewer than six runs in every postseason game.
"It's big. There's only been one other (Washington) team to win a regional," Peiffer said. "Nobody expected us to do it and we did it. It feels good to do it with this group of guys."
Coach Randy Roberts has a well-earned reputation as an old-school task-master, but he, too, was appreciative of the moment.
"I was talking to somebody and we were saying how it's hard for a bad team to sustain a full game and beat a good team in basketball and football," he said. "In baseball you never know. So much of it in games comes down to things you have no control over. Anything can happen and you have to focus, to not let it happen. That's the joy in it."
Roberts drives that point home with a pitch-by-pitch, out-by-out, inning-by-inning approach. He coaches against the game as much as he does opponents.
"It's cliche, yet the only thing that matters is the next pitch," he said. "That can be a tough thing to do. We gave (North White) some runs and we gave a couple to South Central. It's so easy to stand out there and let that get you down. So much of it is how you react to things, good or bad. If you take care of your business, the rest will take care of itself."
Washington advances to its first semistate since 2007 and will face Rockville at noon Saturday in the Kokomo Semistate. The Rox knocked out top-ranked Frontier in the regional and have allowed one run in the state tournament.
"We're excited," Collins said. "Let me put it this way. I can barely talk from that (nine-run) sixth inning. We're happy to win, but we still think we can go farther."