After starting the year 6-2, and losing their first game in Indiana Crossroads Conference play, the Cardinal Ritter Baseball Team found their footing and bounced back going undefeated the rest of the way in conference, to pick up their 6th title in as many years, on their way to a Sectional Championship. The IHSAA Sectional was historic as this was the first time Cardinal Ritter had won a 3A Sectional in any sport.
The ICC loss was in a pitcher’s duel against Lutheran that saw Damien “Llama” Wallace take the loss while only giving up 1 hit and striking out 20 in 8 and 2/3 innings. The very next day the Raiders had to bounce back against ICC foe Monrovia and they came out a little sluggish to start but scored 3 runs in the third, 1 in the fourth, 4 in the fifth and 1 in the sixth to effectively put a stop to the Bulldogs hopes as they could only muster up 2 runs in the rout.
Pitching for the Raiders was “Go” DJ Boggs who threw 5 innings, struck out 5, and only gave up 2 hits with zero earned runs. Toeing the mound after Boggs, in his first varsity outing of his career, was Grant “G-Man” Eifert who baffled the Bulldog hitters striking out 3 and only giving up 1 hit.
The offense was led by Joey “Summer” Wynne who went 2 for 3 with 3 RBI and a double. Wallace and Boggs also added 2 hits a piece with Wallace adding 2 RBI. Le’Ron “Mr. Fantastic” Fleming and Jack “Rabbit” Henninger added a hit a piece while Joey “Gamer” Gruber did not get a hit, but hit 4 hard line drives right at people.
After Monrovia, The Raiders jumped right back into ICC play taking on Beech Grove and beating them 11-1 in 5 innings. Pitching for the Raiders was Boggs, who gave up only 2 hits and struck out 3 in 4 innings of work. Henninger came in and threw the last inning striking out 1.
Leading the offense was Gruber going 2 for 2 with a double, an RBI and 3 stolen bases. Eifert, Henninger and Aaron Roberts all went 2 for 3 with Roberts picking up 2 RBI. Fleming had a 3 RBI single while Bogg also added a hit.
After the Hornet rout, the Raiders turned around and played arch-rival Speedway at home. The tension was there at the beginning as Wallace had his worst outing of the year. “Worst” being excellent compared to every other pitcher in the state, considering he earned the complete game victory while striking out 13. He did get touched up a bit in the second inning giving up 2 earned runs with a couple of hits. After that he was outstanding as usual, not giving the Plugs a chance to rally.
Gruber made the offense go as he was 3 for 4 stealing 3 bases in the process. Fleming and Eifert both added 2 hits and an RBI a piece with one of Fleming’s being a double. Also adding hits on the day were Henninger, Wallace, Wynne and Roberts.
After the rival Plugs, the Raiders then had to travel to unbeaten Scecina to take on the Crusaders in what was dubbed “the conference game of the year.” The winner of the game would have control of their own destiny in conference and Scecina had their ace on the mound who was committed to Ball State. The big game atmosphere did not seem to affect the Raiders as they played tremendously. Especially Wallace and Gruber, who played at another level than the rest of the field, as they elevated the rest of Cardinal Ritter’s play.
The pitcher’s duel went scoreless until the 3rd inning when Conner Williams led off the inning with a walk. Next was a single by Gruber to put runners at first and second with no outs. A walk by Eifert one batter later put Fleming up with the bases juiced. Unfortunately, he hit into a 1-2-3 double play to deflate the Raiders chances. With Gruber now on 3rd, he timed the Scecina ace on his first pitch and was ready to go. On the next pitch, Gruber took off to home and had the play stolen standing up. That was until the umpire called a balk and gave the Raiders the run anyway.
That 1 run was all Wallace needed as he was dominant throughout with the only hiccups being in the first inning when the lead-off man started with a single and got to second and in the 7th when two Crusaders got to second before being mowed down going to 3rd. Wallace capped off the game with a strike out to seal the deal, his 10th K of the game. He was almost flawless, showing his grit only giving up 3 hits and 1 walk in the complete game shutout victory.
The Raiders tacked on one more in the 7th for insurance Wynne was hit by a pitch, Henninger then got a base hit to put runners at 1st and 2nd with 1 out. Williams had a sacrifice bunt to put runners at 2nd and 3rd with 2 outs and Gruber up and he delivered again with a base hit bunt to score Wynne from third.
The win was a highlight of the season, but also gave the Raiders the dreaded big game hangover as they played Heritage Christian the next day in the City Tournament. The team came out flat and with the inclement weather, compounded issues all day. The Eagles scored 1 in the 2nd which the Raiders responded by scoring 4. Then in the fourth inning the Eagles scored 4 followed up by a 5 spot in the fifth before the game was delayed and moved to Bishop Chatard High School. The Raiders showed life when play resumed scoring 2 in the sixth, but it was not enough as they fell 11-6.
The offense was led by Wallace who went 3 for 4 with a double. Gruber stayed hot going 2 for 3 with a double and 3 stolen bases. Williams added two hits and an RBI while Henninger blasted a 3 run triple.
The next week proved to be a gauntlet for the Raiders as they played 5 games in 5 consecutive days. This started off with a 16-8 win at Lapel. The Raiders had to travel more than an hour to get there and played a marathon game that lasted over 3 hours. The Raiders offense was outstanding as they amassed 10 hits and 12 RBI. Their patience at the plate was rewarded with great hitters’ pitches that they took advantage of.
Leading the offense was Henninger who went 3 for 5 with 2 RBI. Eifert added 2 hits and walked twice. Gruber was on base each of his 4 plate appearances getting an RBI double and stealing a base. Also adding hits were Fleming, Roberts, Wallace, and Wynne.
Boggs started the game and looked better than his outing against HC, but was still not his sharpest. Drew Matter came in and threw 3 innings in his first varsity outing on the mound.
After the long night, the Raiders turned around and headed to Triton Central to take on the Tigers who were 4-1 in conference. This victory had huge implications for the ICC title. The Raiders offense came out on fire again posting 4 runs in the first. They cooled down a bit but scored 3 in the sixth and 1 in the 7th to beat TC 8-1.
Wallace had another All-Star type outing picking up the complete game victory against a very good Tiger offense. The “Llama” picked up 11 strike outs on 5 hits, 2 walks and 0 earned runs.
The offense was good, but the Tigers defense prevented the Raiders from pushing runners through even with 11 hits on the day. Eifert, Williams, Henninger and Boggs each had 2 hits with Boggs collecting 2 big RBI. Wallace, Wynne and Gruber each added a single a piece with Gruber adding another stolen base.
The win put the Raiders in sole control of a 6th straight conference title and clinched at least a share of the ICC, but they weren’t content with just a share as they headed into the last game of ICC play with something to prove. However, Park Tudor gave Cardinal Ritter all they could handle as the game went 10 innings. “Gamer” gutted out 7 and 2/3rds on the mound with Eifert coming in to pick up the win, his career first. Both of them gave up 16 hits total, but kept the Panthers from scoring most of the time. Wynne came in in the bottom of the tenth with runners on 1st and 2nd with 1 out and delivered the game winning walk-off hit.
The offense was led by Gruber again who went 3 for 4 with an RBI and a stolen base. Boggs was big going 2 for 4 with a run as did Henninger who also picked up an RBI. Also adding hits were Wallace, Williams and Wynne with the aforementioned ICC clinching hit.
The Raiders gave the Cadets only 2 runs in the first four innings but could not get the offense going until the 6th where they scored 1 run and followed that up with another in the 7th to push the game into extra innings. However Cascade scored 1 run in the 9th to take the win.
With the conference wrapped up the Raiders then headed to Cascade to face their UIndy prospect. The long games and travel looked like they were taking their toll on the Raiders as the offense could only pick up 4 total hits on the day. The game remained close because Henninger pitched the outing of his career going the distance in the 9 inning game while only giving up 3 earned runs on 8 scattered hits. He was able to keep the Cadet bats off-balanced and threw an efficient 114 total pitches. The only hits for the day were by Gruber who had a triple, Roberts, Fleming and Wallace.
To end the week, the Raiders were treated to another road trip. However, this was no ordinary away game as they were fortunate enough to play at Alexander Field at Purdue University. They took on Guerin in what may be the fastest game of the year lasting only an hour and 15 minutes. Boggs was on the mound and was much sharper than his previous 2 starts. Although his stats didn’t show it, he was efficient and gutted out a complete game in the 6-0 loss. The offense had 5 hits but could not string anything together. The only hits were by Gruber, Fleming, Boggs, Williams and Damien Horton. Gruber added to his 3A State leading stolen base record and Fleming’s hit was a double.
The next week the Raiders took 2 losses to start with the first being an ugly game at Grand Park against 1A State Champions, University. Gruber started on the mound and only gave up 2 earned runs in 2 innings of work, but he was not his typical sharp self as the Raiders defense let him down to the tune of 4 errors on the day.
Gruber was the biggest bright spot on offense as he went 2 for 3 with 2 more stolen bases. Henninger, Eifert and Fleming had the team’s other 2 hits.
After that, the Raiders looked to turn things around against fellow Archdiocese foe, Chatard. Cardinal Ritter ran their ace, Wallace, out there to help right the ship, but the offense could only score 1 run and 1 hit off a solo home run by Horton in the 2-1 loss.
Wallace only gave up 1 earned run in the complete game loss while striking out 11 and scattering 4 hits and walking 3.
The last regular season game before Sectionals was against Ben Davis at home. The Raiders knew how important the game was for momentum and threw Wallace again who was his most efficient of the year throwing only 63 pitches in the 11-1 complete game victory.
The offense found its stride again with 12 hits led by Boggs. He was outstanding at the plate going 3 for 3 with 2 RBI. Horton stayed hot at the plate with 2 hits. Gruber and Wallace each had 2 hits with Eifert, Fleming and Williams adding a hit a piece.
The Raiders then had a week break to get ready for the IHSAA 3A Sectionals at Brebeuf. Their first game of the tournament was against Danville. The last time Cardinal Riter faced them was 3 years prior in a 11-1 loss. But that didn’t matter as the Raiders came out firing on all cylinders scoring 1 in the first and following that up with 3 in the second. CRHS knew that would be enough with Wallace on the mound, but wanted to strategically pull him out of the game to give him a chance to come in if necessary in game two. After 2 more runs in the sixth, the Raiders pulled Wallace and put “Gamer” in to do what he does and he helped them take home the 6-1 victory. Wallace was lights out striking out 8 and only allowing 3 hits and 0 runs.
The offense was again led by “Gamer” who went 1 for 3 with 2 RBI, a run and 3 stolen bases. Fleming had a double, Wallace had a 2 RBI single and Horton added an RBI single.
Cardinal Ritter was 1 victory away from a Sectional Title but had to face Tri-West, the team that beat the Sectional favorites, Brebeuf, and had ended the Raiders season the year prior. Boggs started on the hill and pitched arguably the best game of his high school career going 6 innings while giving up only 3 hits and 3 walks.
The Raiders drew first blood in the first inning as they scored 1, but allowed the Bruins a run of their own in the bottom half of the frame. Cardinal Ritter bounced back with an RBI single in the second by Eifert to go ahead 2-1. The Bruins kept clawing back but the Raiders continued to stop them from scoring and put another run on the board in the fifth after another Eifert single and a Roberts sac fly.
The Raiders confidence began to grow, knowing that Wallace would be available for at least 1 inning of work if not more. Boggs bared down and continued to grind on the mound until the seventh. With the Raiders up 3-1 going into the inning, the decision was made that Wallace would be coming in to close out the game. With the excitement, the Raiders tacked on another 3 runs to go up 6-1. Wallace entered the game and had the look of a champion as he stepped on the mound to complete the victory.
He made short work of the Bruins striking out the side and giving the Raiders the Sectional Victory. The Raider Nation swarmed the field to help their Raiders celebrate their victory in style.
The next week the Raiders headed to their 6th Regional Tournament in 7 years to face mighty Edgewood. Unfortunately, this was not Cardinal Ritter’s day as they lost 4-0 against the eventual State Runner-Ups. Wallace pitched brilliantly and kept the high potent offense at bay, but his 9 K’s and 1 earned run was not enough for the win.
The Edgewood pitcher was dominant only giving up 1 hit to Gruber who looked to push the offense in the right direction as he stole his Cardinal Ritter Record 33rd base in the game. The swipe put him 1 past former Raider great Alex “The Sticky Bandit” Vela.
Even with the loss, the Raiders had so much to be proud for. They won the school’s 6th straight Indiana Crossroads Conference title in as many years and won the school’s first ever 3A Sectional title in boys sports history. Two things no one can ever take away from them.
Great season Raiders!!! The Raider Nation is proud of you!!!