Northeast Dubois came close at Loogootee once this season. The Jeeps are wondering if they can improve a second-time around.
Northeast Dubois (14-14) meets Class A No. 3 Loogootee (24-6) in the opening game of the baseball regional at Les Paige Field Saturday at 11 a.m.
Loogootee won a Blue Chip Conference game at Loogootee, 5-4, in the team’s previous meeting.
Jeep coach Brian Kirchoff hopes his team is able to find an additional run or two.
“We hope we play the way we can play and do the best we can,” Kirchoff said. “If it’s good enough, that’s awesome. If it’s not, we have no regrets.”
Kirchoff said his club has suffered with consistency while playing a schedule that includes Jasper, Heritage Hills, Martinsville, Washington, Princeton and Shakamak.
“We’re interested in preparing for the tournament, and our schedule does that,” Kirchoff said. “We beat Forest Park this year, but the problem we’ve had is that after a win like that, we’ve been unable to maintain our momentum. It just seems like we were never able to build any momentum.”
The Jeeps are on their longest winning steak of the season, three, and Kirchoff is hoping that is a sign of things to come.
“Hopefully, we have turned a corner,” Kirchoff said. “You just don’t know until you play that next game.”
Loogootee coach Roger Bailey says the Jeeps are a steady team.
“They (Northeast Dubois) will usually not beat themselves a lot,” Bailey said. “They can hit, and I don’t care how many they get as long as they don’t score runs. We just don’t want to allow big innings.”
The Jeeps feature senior Jace Gordon who is hitting in the mid .400 range with 28 RBIs and three home runs. Junior Joe Gress averages .420 with 27 RBIs. Sophomores Cameron Riker and Gage Knies are in the mid .300s.
“I think we’ve hit the ball better as a team than in the past few seasons,” Kirchoff said of his crew its .320 average.
The Lions displayed a hitting exhibition in the sectional final that Bailey said the coaching staff had been waiting to see. The Lions set a school record for extra base hits with nine.
Of those nine, seven were doubles that often found the middle or the opposite field.
“The coaching staff has been harping on the kids to do those things,” Bailey said. “I think we finally saw that in the championship.”
Kirchoff noted Loogootee looked like a, “college team,” with their size and athleticism.
“It didn’t hurt that they won the state championship in basketball this winter,” Kirchoff said. “That carries a lot of confidence into a baseball season.”
“Our kids have talent, and a good attitude,” Bailey said of the squad that went to the semistate last spring before being eliminated. “They love to compete, and they are capable of winning on just about any day as long as they do what they are capable of.
“I think they (his team) are dialed in and have a vision of where they want to be,” Bailey said. “They’re hungry, and we have guys on the team that won a state championship in basketball. They want to have a chance to win two titles and leave a legacy here that may not be done again for some time.”
Tecumseh (10-18) faces South Central (22-8) at the conclusion of the opener, with winners returning at 8 p.m. for the championship.
Loogootee and South Central played for the regional championship last season, with the Lions winning, 5-4.
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