FORTVILLE – The last time Vernon High School won a regional baseball championship, not a single player on the current list was born.
Potentially, their parents were not either.
Marauders head coach Brad King admits shockingly that he was 8 months old in June 1971 when Mount Vernon captured the Southport Regional title on his way to an elite eight appearance at Bloomington Semistate.
To put the prolonged drought in context, a stamp cost 8 cents last time Vernon hoisted his lone regional championship trophy.
The Flintstones-based Fruity Pebbles cereal was first released the same year, and the original Starbucks opened its doors for business in Seattle’s historic Pike Place Market, along with Taco Bell in Downey, California.
Nebraska won the NCAA national football title. Baltimore, not quite Indianapolis yet, the Colts were Super Bowl V champions, and Roberto Clemente and the Pittsburgh Pirates beat the Baltimore Orioles in seven games to win the World Series.
Former United States President Richard Nixon was Time Magazine’s Man of the Year. Barry Manilow wrote the State Farm jingle: “Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there,” while Ferdinand Lewis Alcindor Jr. changed name to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Jerry Springer also began his four-year term as mayor of Cincinnati.
Times have probably changed.
“It has been a very long time. “I did some research today, and we have won seven section championships, and five times we have lost in the first regional game,” said King. So there have only been three times where our program has won a regional game. The ’71 and ’72 teams both won. ”
In 1971, the Marauders had 14 regular seasons before winning six straight during the IHSAA’s fifth of the now 54 state tournament series.
The 71-man team beat New Palestine, 6-4, Pendleton Heights, 2-1 and Eastern Hancock, 12-0, to take on Greenfield-Central Sectional that spring.
At Southport Regional, the Marauders beat host Cardinals, 3-1, and beat Warren Central, 13-3, for the title before taking over Shakamak (Jasonville) during the semifinals of Bloomington Semistate, 14-9, in eight innings.
Their race ended in a 1-0 loss to Columbus in the semifinals, but in 1972 the Marauders were on it again, claiming the Greenfield-Central Sectional by eliminating Eastern Hancock, 6-2, and host Cougars, 11-1 in five innings, for the title .
Mount Vernon beat Warren Central in the Southport Regional semifinal, 5-2, but then the Cardinals got their revenge and stopped the Marauders, 4-3, in the final.
Since then, the Marauders have not been so lucky and lost five regional matches in five attempts in 1975, 1984, 1992, 1995 and 2011 (Class 3A).
“Over the last 50 years, we have only won three regional matches, not just regional titles. It’s a long time, ”King said. “Myself and (assistant) coach (Wayne) Graham, we are the only two in the coaching staff who were even at the time. It is fantastic. It really is. “
Already setting a new regular season winning record of 22, besting the 1991 squad’s 21, today’s Class 4A Marauders (24-6) also secured the program’s first live Hoosier Heritage Conference championship this season after sharing their only second title in 2009.
Their current nine-game winning streak led to the program’s first 10-year section championship and the team’s fourth IHSBCA All-Star selection in senior standout Hunter Dobbins, who joined Chad Kleine (1991), Troy Montgomery (2013) and Zach Spears (2015). .
Coach King has made his pioneers from the Marauders baseball team in 2021, and despite the scale of the opportunity ahead of this Saturday at Plainfield Regional, they are not ready to quit.
“We have been loose the last couple of weeks, and there are some big games. You would think that if they were going to be tight, it would have happened, but when we had the conference championship on the line (with Greenfield-Central just one game left), they kept loose. We roll into the section, and they stayed loose again, “said King. “And right now we’ve had very good practice.”
Nothing phases Marauders, and with good reason. The core group has established chemistry by playing together since junior high, while their approach to the game is simplified.
“We just go out and say, ‘Let’s play ball and not give the other team anything. Do not force anything. Do not be greedy. Just play, ‘and that’s been our mantra all year,’ King said. “We have not really been worried about who we play. Our biggest opponent is us. ”
At Plainfield Regional, the Marauders’ opponent, on paper, is Franklin Central (9-19) at 11 a.m., who beat New Palestine Monday night, 10-6, to win their ninth section championship overall and second in four years.
The Marauders raised the Flashes, 10-3, at home on April 5, but neither team revealed much.
“They did not see our arms, and we did not see them. They have two pretty good jugs, ”King said. They threw No. 2 (Sam Mettert), started him in the section championship, but I think we’ll see (Phil) Pritchett, and he’s a left winger. My understanding is that he has a pretty good fastball. He has a good run on the arms side and a pretty good curveball, so he will be a challenge for us. He beat Fishers, and he’s had some other nice outings. ”
Mettert, a senior, is committed to Wabash Valley JC, while senior infielder Cyrus Robinson is a Kentucky Wesleyan recruit.
The Flashes opened the 2021 season 0-9 before winning four of the last five, including a 4-3 victory in eight innings over favorite Roncalli during the Franklin Central Sectional semifinals.
“It’s the thing about tournament time. You come on a roll, and I know it’s a cliché, but records do not really matter. “If you come on a throw and you start hitting well and you play solid defense, all you have to do is scrape a run or two across the board and you will end up with the win,” King said.
“That’s what they did against Roncalli, and they came out and hit much better and put the ball in play against New Pal, so I’m sure their level of confidence is up.”
The same can be said for the Marauders, who made their second shutout loss this season – an 8-0 setback against Greenfield-Central on May 11 – to a margin of 85-28 in the last nine games.
The Marauders have scored six or more races in 23 games this year, including 20 wins. They have an average of 8.83 races per competition, and they do so with seven players hitting .286 or better.
Dobbins, a Ball State recruit, leads the lineup with a .577 stroke average (45-for-78), 10 home runs, 12 doubles and 39 RBIs. Senior Jake Stank, an Anderson University commitment, hits .309 with 27 RBIs, and junior Landon Clark, an Oakland recruit, has a .289 average with three triples, six doubles and 16 stolen bases.
Senior Joel Walton has a 495 stroke average with 13 doubles, four home runs and 35 RBI. Sophomore Eli Bridenthal is the third best on the team with an average of .382, 11 RBI and 10 stolen bases. Nate Weaver, senior, strikes. 286 with 12 RBI.
“We just go out, keep plugging in on the record, and have a good approach, and know that if one or two guys don’t hit, those other five guys will,” King said. “It has been good. They have all kept a steady head, stay loose and they know what the price is, and that’s what they’re shooting at. ”
They did not allow a single race during the Pendleton Heights section, defeating Muncie Central, 19-0 in five innings, and the hosts, 8-0, behind a complete game, a hit by senior AJ Swingle, which is 8-0 on the season with 74 strikes in 56.1 innings.
Senior Eli Clotfelter, a volunteer state recruiter, is the team’s second ace at 7-1 with 69 strikes in 44.0 innings. Marauders pitching staff has a 3.59 ERA with a stroke average of .215 against.
Vernon will need both arms to run for the regional title with 4A No. 7 Cathedral (23-5) as the favorite in the second semifinal match against Terre Haute North Vigo (12-7) at 13. The championship game is set for 20.00
Fighting Irish is the captain of senior Chris Gallagher, a right-handed pitcher committed to Wright State, and senior offielder Camden Jordan, a fast Louisville recruit.
“It may be the springboard we also have to go through,” King remarked of the cathedral. “But again, Terre Haute North, they’re pretty good, too.”
First, the Marauders must end a drought before meeting the next, namely one that spans 49 years.
“I have not told them the last five times we have been to the regional team, we have lost the first match. “There will be something in the discussion (today) that is preparing to go in on Saturday, just to tell them, there again, here’s another way to get burned,” King said. So before we play that night, if we’re lucky enough to win, it’s the next 1971. If those guys want to be the best Vernon team there is, at least on paper, you must at least get to it, not right? “