Penn shuts out Indianapolis Cathedral for fifth IHSAA state crown

BY STEVE KRAH
http://www.IndianaRBI.com

“I was just getting them work out there.”
That was the response of Ben Gregory when he was told that he had so many fly-ball outs behind him in tossing a three-hitter to help Penn (26-6) beat Indianapolis Cathedral 3-0 in a clash of unranked teams for the IHSAA Class 4A state baseball title Saturday, June 18 in the 2022 State Finals at Victory Field in Indianapolis.
The senior right-hander got Fighting Irish batters to fly out nine times with seven strikeouts, one pop-up, one line-out and a groundout (the the 21st and final out). He faced 24 batters and threw 84 pitches. He retired the side in the seventh with a line-out, strikeout and groundout.
“I was trying to keep them off-balance,” said Gregory, who helped the Kingsmen to their fifth state crown (1994, 1998, 2001, 2015, 2022). “I had curveball and change-up working most of the game and I was keeping the fastball higher in the (strike) zone so (Cathedral hitters) were getting under it a little bit.”
Sophomore Patrick Mazur produced a one-hit single and sophomore J.T. Stiner was hit by a Gregory pitch with two outs before the Penn pitcher got a rally-squelching strikeout in the Irish first.
“This is easily the biggest game I’ve ever pitched in my entire life,” said Gregory. “Being able to come off that little bit of adversity definitely calmed me down.
“Once we scored in the bottom of the first I knew we were in control of the game.”
Gregory, who had elbow surgery in the off-season, not only got to loft the state championship trophy Saturday. But he was named winner of the Bob Gardner Mental Attitude Award.
“I’ve dealt with a lot,” said Gregory. “Nine months ago I had no idea if I’d ever play again.
“Just being put up for that award means so much because my coached trusted me to be the recipient. I truly love the coaching staff.”
Greg Dikos has been Penn’s head coach for 35 years and all of the state titles (and a runner-up finish in 2017).
He talked about his hurler and his team.
“One of (Gregoy’s) most-effective traits is changing speeds,” said Dikos. “Last year that was his bread and butter — that change-up. That would fool a lot of hitters and get them to pop up. It’s a wicked pitch.
“I’m just so happy. I never thought in the world he was going to make it seven innings. He hasn’t pitched seven innings all year.”
What’s championship No. 5 mean?
“It’s different (with each one),” said Dikos. “One for the thumb. They’re all special.
“It’s humbling. I watch the kids how they practice, develop that team chemistry and just work their butts off and start playing for one another.”
Senior right-handed submariner Ben Gomez tossed all six innings for the Irish and gave up six singles with one strikeout and three walks over 76 pitches.
“We didn’t exactly know what to expect from (Gomez),” said Dikos. “We tried to mimic (the delivery) at practice.
“I preach that we’ve got to take what they give you. If they pitch outside you’ve got to scrap and grind and go the opposite way.”
Penn went down in order in the sixth against Gomez with a strikeout and two fly-outs.
A one-out single by junior Carson Johnson was followed by a strikeout and an inning-ending fielder’s choice in the Cathedral sixth.
The Kingsmen left the bases loaded in a score-free fifth. The third out came when junior Irish shortstop Kyuss Gargett made a diving stop on a ball hit up the middle and beat the runner to the second base bag for a force-out.
The Irish had two fly-outs and pop-up in going down in order in the fifth.
Penn got one run in the fourth for a 3-0 lead.
Junior Evan Tuesley led off with a single, moved to second base on junior Colton Hudnall’s sacrifice bunt and scored on senior Zach Hoskins’ two-out single.
Cathedral (18-11-2) went down 1-2-3 in the fourth with fly-outs to center, right and left.
Gomez coaxed the Kingsmen into three groundouts and were not hurt by an error in the bottom of the third.
Cathedral went down on three fly-outs in the third, including a sprinting grab by right fielder Tuesley for the final out of the stanza.
Penn’s edge moved to 2-0 with a run in the second.
Gregory poked a lead-off single. Junior courtesy runner Mason Campbell stole second base, moved to third base on Hudnall’s single and crossed the plate on junior Cooper Hums’ groundout. The frame ended with the bases loaded.
Gregory yielded a single to sophomore Chris Klug then picked him off first base for the first out of a score-free Irish second. Gregory fanned the next two hitters.
Penn scored the game’s first run in its half the first for a 1-0 lead.
Hoskins led off with a single, stole second base, moved to third base on a groundout and crossed the plate thanks to a passed ball.
Cathedral left two runners in a scoreless first.
“There were three or four ball that were hit really well but just right at somebody,” said sixth-year Cathedral coach Ed Freje of his team’s offensive night. “That’s baseball. They made some really good plays and we were beat by a really solid pitcher.”
The Irish were going for a fourth state championship — the most-recent being a 4-3 win in eight innings against Penn in 2017. Cathedral now has six runner-up finishes.

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