SELLERSBURG — Twenty-three days after a stinging 11-run loss to Providence, Silver Creek redeemed itself — in a big way Thursday.
Riding some solid hitting and the left arm of ace Sammy Barnett, the Dragons downed the Pioneers 7-3 in the rematch, as well as a matchup of top-5 teams, in the first round of the Class 3A Silver Creek Sectional.
“It feels great coming out here playing the way we played, showing everybody that we weren’t the team that we showed in the regular season,” said Barnett, who scattered seven hits while striking out nine Pioneers in the complete-game victory. “I talked to a couple of the team leaders before the game and I had complete and utter confidence that our team believed that we could win this game. In the years past, maybe we could question the team’s effort and maybe we don’t know if everybody would show up. But this year I knew everybody would give it their all. We knew that it’d have to be a complete team effort to beat a really good baseball team, and that’s what we did.”
SILVER CREEK 7, PROVIDENCE 3
The fifth-ranked Pioneers pounded the Dragons 17-6 on May 1 behind Nathan Proctor’s monster game (two home runs, nine RBIs). Thursday, Bryson McNay’s big day at the plate and Barnett’s quality outing on the mound helped avenge that loss.
“Two senior captains, Sammy Barnett and Bryson, I wouldn’t say you expect it out of them, but they’re four-year starters. It’s not their first rodeo. They’ve been here before,” Silver Creek coach Joe Decker said. “The moment of all these people [here], and everything, is not going to intimidate Sammy Barnett or Bryson.”
McNay went 3-for-4 at the plate highlighted by his solo home run in the game’s second at-bat, which gave the Dragons a lead they never relinquished.
“That was huge,” Decker said. “I thought coming in it was big for us to score first, to let them know, ‘Hey, we’re not going anywhere.’”
Added Barnett: “That was immense. It gave me my little cushion I needed. I could pitch in an 0-0 game, but it feels so much better to pitch in a 1-0 game knowing that we can hit this guy.”
Silver Creek made it 2-0 in the second when Jack Hawkins singled up the middle, moved to second on a fielder’s choice, took third on a wild pitch, then scored on a second straight wild throw by Providence starter Christian Graf.
The Pioneers cut Creek’s lead in half in the fourth, when Kaden Williams, who didn’t play in the first game between the two teams due to injury, led off with a single. He then moved to second on a wild pitch, stole third, then scored on Reece Davis’ RBI single to right. Providence nearly had more, but with runners on the corners and only one out, Barnett struck out Joe Wilkinson then got some help from his defense when shortstop Tyler Wheeler snagged Eli Watson’s come-backer off one hop and threw him out at first.
The Dragons pushed their lead back to two runs in the fifth when Dylan Whitt, their No. 9 hitter, led off with a single, stole second, then scored on McNay’s 1-out single to left.
Barnett escaped a 2-out, bases-loaded jam in the bottom of the inning when he got Providence No. 3 hitter Adam Uhl to bounce out to Wheeler.
In the sixth, Silver Creek scored two more runs — on Whitt’s RBI single that chased the Pioneers’ second pitcher, Joe Wilkinson, and Barnett’s sacrifice fly that greeted their third, Timmy Borden, to take a 5-1 lead.
“I thought we threatened every inning,” Decker said. “We kept the pressure on them. We got baserunners early in the innings. We just kept pounding at ’em, pounding at ’em, pounding at ’em. I thought we did a really good job at the plate.”
Providence (20-4) plated two runs in the bottom of the inning to get back within two, but the Dragons answered again with two more of their own in the top of the seventh.
“The game was about us always being under pressure,” Pioneers coach Scott Hornung said. “It just felt like every time we took the field on defense, we just couldn’t get through an easy inning. I felt like they were always having people on. They did a really good job of continually getting people on base and keeping the pressure on us and I just felt that we could never get in a situation where we could come in and bat and then really get back into it because they kept adding runs on the board.”
In the bottom of the seventh, Barnett got Borden to fly out to deep right before striking out Uhl then inducing Davis to pop out to end the game.
“I told everybody, ‘If we have [Providence] I want to play them first because I’ll take Sammy on the mound and take our chances. And if they beat us with Sammy on the mound, they beat us with Sammy on the mound,” Decker said. “Believe it or not we were confident all week. We weren’t intimidated because of what happened last time. Our guys, I think they came into this game expecting to win. They thought they would win. They were real confident with Sammy on the mound.”
Barnett struck out at least one hitter in each inning while walking only two, one of which was an intentional base on balls to Borden.
“I did not throw a lot of first-pitch strikes, I’m going to be honest, but my curveball was really good today,” the Indiana signee said. “My changeup was really good. I was able to locate my fastballs in and out a lot, that helped me keep them off balance since I didn’t really feel like I was throwing very hard today. But … I was able to locate all three of my pitches, which honestly, that helped me against some of the dangerous hitters they have in their lineup.”
In addition to McNay’s three hits, Whitt and Hawkins had two apiece for Silver Creek, which kept its quest for a second straight sectional title — and sixth in eight years — alive.
“We told them right from the beginning, ‘You win this game, you haven’t won anything yet,'” Decker said. “‘Nothing matters. It’s back to business tomorrow and we’ve got to be ready to play.’ We’ve got to keep playing to win, not worrying about losing.”
Williams had two hits to lead Providence, which was bumped up to 3A this year due to the IHSAA’s “success factor.”
“I don’t think our at-bats were real good early in the game, honestly,” Hornung said. “We should’ve had some better swings than we did, I felt like, the first time through the lineup. [The] second time, third time through the lineup, I felt like we started hitting the ball a little bit better. But we pretty much gave away three innings in those first three innings because we did nothing.”
SILVER CREEK 7, PROVIDENCE 3
Silver Creek 110 012 2—7 8 1
Providence 000 102 0—3 7 0
W — Sammy Barnett. L — Christian Graf. 2B — Kaden Williams (P), Reece Davis (P), Holden Groher (S). HR — Bryson McNay (S)
Records — Silver Creek 23-3, Providence 20-4.