Berwick High School's Zeph Hoffpauir fires a pitch during game 2 of Berwick's Class 3A Regional Round series against North Vermilion in Berwick Friday. Hoffpauir earned the win in the second game, a 7-0 Berwick victory. The Panthers won game 1 Friday 17-0 to advance to the Class 3A quarterfinals for the third straight season. Berwick will host No. 5 Iota this weekend in a best-of-three series. (The Daily Review/Geoff Stoute)
Berwick dominates NV to advance to quarterfinals
After blasting No. 13 seeded North Vermillion 17-0 in just five innings Friday, the Berwick Panthers baseball team entered Saturday knowing they were one win shy of a return trip to the quarterfinal round of the Class 3A playoffs.
The defending state champions and No. 4 seeded Panthers did not disappoint.
Berwick used a five-run fifth inning to stretch an early lead into an insurmountable one in a 7-0 shutout victory against North Vermillion (20-16).
With this weekend’s series victory, Berwick (28-7) has won 11 consecutive games and 13 of its last 14.
In Saturday’s finale, Berwick sent a combined nine batters to the plate in the fifth against North Vermillion starter Hayden Durke and reliever John Touchet. Berwick managed just two hits but showed an excellent eye for discipline at the plate.
Already leading 2-0 thanks to an RBI single from Hunter Landry in the third and a runner scoring from third base on a wild pitch, Berwick added to its lead when Barrett Hover singled sharply to center to score Ethan Nguyen and extend the lead to 3-0.
Mitchell Sanford followed by reaching on an error to load the bases with nobody out.
Landry and Zeph Hoffpauir then drew back-to-back walks to put the Panthers ahead 5-0, and Durke, who was unable to record an out in the fifth, was replaced by Touchet.
Chad LaGrange and Brett Williams followed with RBI groundouts against Touchet to bump the Panthers’ lead to 7-0.
With Hoffpauir on the mound, it was more than enough run support for Berwick. The right-hander tossed 6.2 scoreless innings, one out shy of a complete game shutout. He allowed just one hit all afternoon, walked seven, hit two batters and struck out 10.
Hoffpauir left to a rousing standing ovation from the Berwick faithful after Panthers Coach Brandon Bravata made his only pitching change with one out left in the game. It came after a fatigued Hoffpauir had issued his third walk of the inning to load the bases.
“There’s no better character on our team than Zeph Hoffpauir,” Bravata said. “I told him that ovation was not just because you had a great pitching performance but because of the kind of person you are. People know that, and they respect that, and they’re pulling for you and are proud of you. That was something that kind of choked me up a little. It’s a kid that deserves it. He’s the hardest worker I’ve ever had.”
For Hoffpauir, everything started to come together toward the middle of the game.
“I had to start trusting my stuff, making sure it was on, get a good feel for it and let it ride,” Hoffpauir said. “During district play, I pitched against them and got a good feel for how their lineup goes and how each person swings. I had a good idea going into the game of what I had to do.”
Rustin Ratcliff came on in relief and got Durke to fly out to end the game.
Berwick will advance to host No. 5 Iota in the Class 3A quarterfinals this weekend. Game 1 is set for 6 p.m. Friday, with game two scheduled for 1 p.m. Saturday. If a third game is necessary, it will be played at 4 p.m. Saturday.
Iota advanced after winning its series against No. 12 Jennings two games to one.
If they play anything like they did in this series, they’ll be hard to stop.
“We knew (Friday) was kind of a fluke,” Bravata said of the 17-0 score. “Our kids knew (Saturday) was going to be a battle. They believed everything we talked about as far as respecting the opponent. They knew they were facing a collegiate arm, a kid that had (committed to) ULL. We were patient enough and did a good job getting deeper into counts. Instead of trying to make things happen, we let things come to us.”
Indeed, the game featured just three hits total for Berwick. But the Panthers were opportunistic in other areas, drawing eight walks against North Vermillion pitching, reaching base twice on hit by pitches and getting men on by way of two fielding errors.
North Vermillion Coach Jeremy Trahan said he was proud of the way his team competed despite the score. Take away the one bad inning in the fifth and the Patriots would have been in a close game until the last out, he said.
“Really, that one inning killed us,” Trahan said. “We just had some close calls that didn’t go our way, and I think (Durke) got a little taxed in that inning. They’ve got some really great hitters who did a good job. It’s a quality opponent with good hitters. They battled their tails off.”
Trahan paid Berwick the ultimate compliment, saying the Panthers were a team the Patriots wanted to avoid from the moment tournament seeding was announced.
“We really didn’t want to match up with them from the start,” he said. “We knew how talented they are. Their two starters threw real well over the weekend. We had an up-and-down season throughout the year. We had some guys play a lot better than they expected and some who played worse. Sometimes in life you’re going to hit adversity, and you’ve got to keep fighting through it. I think we did that throughout the whole season.”
In Saturday’s loss, Durke suffered the loss as he threw four innings and surrendered seven runs — five earned — on just two hits with seven walks, one hit batter and six strikeouts.
Eli Dubois had North Vermilion’s lone hit as he finished 1-for-2.
Landry led Berwick’s offense with a 2-for-3 performance with two RBIs and a run.
Other top Berwick offensive contributors were Hover, 1-for-3 with an RBI and a run; and Hoffpauir, LaGrange and Williams, each an RBI.
North Vermilion 0 (Game 1)
Berwick scored in every at-bat Friday in game one en route to a 17-0 run-rule victory in five innings.
Berwick scored two runs in the first, four in the second, five in the third and six in the fourth.
Berwick outhit North Vermilion 11-2.
While the Berwick offense was hot, ace Seth Canty turned in a solid day on the mound, tossing a two-hitter. Canty earned the win as he surrendered two hits, one walk, hit one batter and fanned seven in five innings.
Offensively, Seth Giroir and Williams led Berwick’s offense. Giroir was 3-for-4 with a double and three runs, while Williams was 2-for-3 with a triple, five RBIs, a stolen base and a run.
Other top Berwick offensive contributors were LaGrange, 2-for-2 with a double, three RBIs and three runs; Landry, 2-for-4, two RBIs and three runs; Sanford, 1-for-4, two RBIs and a run; and Zeph Delatte and Hover, each an RBI.
Garrett Becker and Parker Romero each finished 1-for-2 to lead North Vermilion.
Ethan Bennett, the first of five North Vermilion pitchers, suffered the loss. In two innings, he surrendered six runs (five earned) on six hits with one walk, one hit batter and one strikeout.