Joey Chapman crushed a ball off the scoreboard in left field, and in the third-base coaching box, Shawnee’s Andy DeWitt leaped high in the air, his hopes soaring for the moment Thursday night.
“That’s the highest I’ve ever jumped in my life,” said DeWitt to the fans lining the fence.
The junior Chapman’s blast gave Shawnee renewed hope in the top of the seventh inning, cutting Jonathan Alder’s lead to one run with no outs, but that hope was quickly extinguished as the next three Braves batters went down in order.
In its first regional appearance since 1979, Shawnee lost 6-5 in a Division II semifinal at UD’s Time Warner Cable Stadium. The Braves outhit the Pioneers 10-4 and had only one error to their three, and those facts just made the loss more painful.
It was a game Shawnee (19-11) knew it could have won.
“I thought we had it from the beginning, and I thought we had it at the end,” Chapman said. “It does make it worse, but we had a heck of a season.”
Alder (22-8) is seeking its fourth berth in the state tournament. It will play Tippecanoe at 5 p.m. today at UD for a spot in the final four.
Alder won the state championship in its first two tries, in 1998 and 2010, and lost in the semifinals in 2011. This was its fourth straight trip to the regional tournament.
The Braves had the Pioneers on the ropes early, taking a 2-0 lead in the first inning and then going up 3-1 after two innings.
Alder rallied with three in the second to take a 4-3 lead and added one more in the third. The Pioneers had just one hit and those two innings and worked six walks.
That’s another reason the Braves knew they could have won.
“It’s tough,” DeWitt said. “That’s why baseball is such a great game. You never know what’s going to happen. I’m just thrilled the guys never gave up, and I knew they wouldn’t. I just know I’m going to miss the seniors.”
Shawnee had a chance to cut into the lead in the fifth after lead-off singles by Chapman and Evan Lyons, but a strikeout, a fly out and another strikeout ended the threat.
Tyler Bostick pitched the final four innings for Shawnee and gave up only one run, one walk and two hits. That one run, on an RBI single by Casey Graber in the sixth, proved to be the game-winner for Alder after Chapman hit his two-run home run in the seventh.
“Joey is probably one of the best hitters I’ve ever coached,” DeWitt said. “He’s baseball year-round. He wants to go to the next level. He’s got the fastest hands, and he works and works.”