S.C. plays long ball: Satellites double season home run total as Grass blanks Morgan in PCC tourney opener
MORGAN TOWNSHIP – Home runs haven’t been a major offensive weapon for South Central this season.
“We’ve had two and only one was out of the park,” coach Zach Coulter said.
The Satellites doubled their total in a span of four batters Monday, using sixth-inning long balls by Tommy Sullivan and Brayden Grass to break out of a scoreless tie with Morgan Township (12-12) and ease to a 7-0 victory behind Grass’ five-hit shutout in the opening round of the Porter County Conference tournament.
“I’m new to this. That’s my first one,” Grass said. “It’s my first year really batting. The one-run lead was awesome, to have that cushion was awesome. I had over a week of rest, so I felt pretty good coming out of the gates, loose and whippy. I was ready to roll.”
Grass and Jack Wheeler went pitch for pitch for five frames, hanging zeroes until Sullivan squared up a 3-2 fastball in the sixth inning.
“I honestly didn’t think it would be out, but Morgan’s field is a little smaller than most,” Sullivan said. “Most of my teammates said they knew it was gone off the bat. I’m the only one that didn’t and I was the one who hit it. I was just trying to put a barrel on the ball. I didn’t touch the ball the first two times at-bat. On 3-2, I was thinking he would give me a good pitch, not wanting to walk me. I wasn’t looking for a walk. It was inner half, so I got out in front of it.”
Grass came up with two on and put a Wheeler offering in a similar spot in the trees beyond the fence in left center.
“Facing a good pitcher like Wheeler, you know you’re going to have to grind him, and we did,” Coulter said. “We run up his pitch count a little bit and finally just started cracking it, then they had to go somewhere else. Brad (Ferrell) probably had the most infield singles in school history in a game. Being able to hit off (Wheeler), it gives us a lot of confidence with the sectional game looming and the PCC the rest of the week because he’s very similar to the (Jackson) Peeler kid from Hebron. They’re neck and neck.”
Wheeler, who struck out 10, was chased in the seventh, when Sullivan (double), Ferrell (single) and Zack Hanchar (single) drove in runs.
“We knew this one would be a good game and it was through five,” Sullivan said. “Morgan’s a good team. It wasn’t going to be easy. It was a good first-round matchup.”
Grass, who fanned 11 and walked none, struck out a pair with runners on second and third and one out in the second, squelching Morgan’s best chance during the scoreless stretch.
“The curve ball was the only thing I struggled with, but the slider took place of the curve ball,” said Grass, who needed 92 pitched to complete the outing. “I’ve really always had some run on my fastball. I’ve just gotten used to it and played it.”
Colin Ward saved the shutout in the seventh with a strike from center field to plate to cut down a Cherokee for the final out.
“That was his best outing by far,” Coulter said. “Coming off 12 days’ rest, we had (Grass) geared up, ready to go for the PCC. 92-pitch complete game, no walks, 11 strikeouts, one hit batter. he controlled the game and then a three-run bomb to go with it. That’s probably the most complete game we’ve played all season,” Coulter said. “It was a clean game defensively behind Brayden, Colin coming up and making a play to gun the runner. I’m just super proud of these guys. They were really focused and that was the difference.”
South Central (17-7) is dialed in for its tourney title defense after having to settle for a tie in the regular season.
“That one hurt,” Grass said. “It wasn’t good enough. We’re back. We want more.”
The Satellites will play at Washington Township on Wednesday with Friday’s final also at Senator Park.
“I said before the (Hebron) game, I didn’t share my toys as a kid, and I don’t want to share the round-robin title,” Sullivan said. “We can’t share the tournament championship. I knew we had to win it outright.”
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