For Yorktown Baseball (15-7), May 14 was a day with over 10 hours spent on Yorktown High School’s campus. From arriving at Tiger Field at 7:45 a.m. to get the field and their skills ready for their 10 a.m. game against Wapahani (17-4), to leaving with the Delaware County Baseball Tournament trophy in hand around 6 p.m.
It was a day filled with three baseball games, two lightning delays and one County Champion. For the first time since 2019, the Tigers became County Champions by defeating cross-town rival Delta (6-15) 11-2.
“It's been a long day,” PJ Fauquher, Yorktown Baseball head coach said. “We just talked, especially during that second delay when we went inside, and I just told them we've got to keep it together, we’ve got to stay focused. We got a chance to have a County Championship at the end of this and it can be easy to lose focus and think about other things and [it] really was just a matter of just a few innings left and we were fortunate to come back out and put a lot of runs on the board.”
Due to the Eagles having their prom later in the evening, as well as looming weather, all three games were moved up in the day’s schedule. However, midway through the Championship game, lightning struck within a 10-mile radius, and a mandatory 30-minute weather delay was imposed.
At the time of the first weather delay, the score was tied 1-1, but just before the second delay, in the top of the fifth inning, Indiana State Baseball commit, Yorktown senior center fielder Jacob Pruitt blasted a three-run home run over the bushes in left field to ignite the Tiger roster and fans in attendance. Delta Baseball head coach Devin Wilburn said it was difficult to maintain focus for the Eagles through the two delays and their prom taking place later in the evening.
“It was right after we gave up the three-run bomb, and all of a sudden it's 4-1 and now we're gonna go sit in there and think about it for a while, I felt like our energy level and our enthusiasm was basically gone at that point,” Wilburn said. “One thing I talked to guys about afterward, was ‘Hey, you got to weather the storm, just gotta be able to handle it and fight through it because they're battling through the same adversity that you are and you gotta be able to handle it.’ So that was one thing I told them I was disappointed with, I felt like our energy level kind of… they just rolled over.”
The Tigers and Eagles returned to the field where Yorktown proceeded to score two more runs that inning and five in the sixth. Fauquher said he was proud of the Tigers' ability to maintain focus and put all the tools together to win the tournament.
“Being able to win and play well and survive mistakes and put enough good things together to win a couple ballgames and a championship, [it's] just great for these guys,” Fauquher said. “They battled through a lot this year, with injuries and mistakes and problems and weather in the second game even, it's tough to stay focused, but it just means a lot for them to be able to keep it together and close it out and get the win.”
Although Delta V. Yorktown is made out to be a rivalry within the community, Wilburn said he has seen a different take on the dynamic between the two schools separated by 15 miles.
“It's a fun rivalry, it's not necessarily a hated rivalry,” Wilburn said. “A lot of guys play travel ball with each other so it's kind of a fun rivalry for us right now and you’re always happy playing for a championship no matter who's on the other side.”
Fauquher has won multiple Delaware County Tournaments as head coach for Yorktown and as a former player for the Tigers, he recognized how important a victory in this tournament is for all programs involved.
“We have a rich history and the County [Tournament] is big for us,” Fauquher said. There’s such great baseball in this county with everybody that winning our County Championship is just a huge accomplishment. It's one of our preseason goals.”
How did the Eagles and Tigers get here?
At 9 a.m., Yorktown met the Wapahani Raiders in the first semifinal matchup of the day, in a contest that held a lot of meaning for the Tigers, according to Pruitt, who was Yorktown’s starting pitcher in the game.
“It's a big game with the top two schools in this area every year and [they’re] a good program, so we knew we had to battle and it was tough to beat them, but clearly in that last inning they didn't give up, so it was a fight to the end and it just means a lot to beat them,” Pruitt said. “Luckily, we got the job done right at the right time, and [junior pitcher Landon] Case came in and threw one pitch, got it done and that's all he needed.”
Ultimately, Yorktown defeated Wapahani 9-8 in a game that came down to the final out after the Raiders scored four runs in the bottom of the seventh inning, including a three-run home run hit by senior outfielder Landon Thompson, and stranded two runners as the final out was made. Pruitt pitched six innings, gave up eight hits and two runs, walked two and struck out 12 batters.
Last season, Yorktown experienced defeat in their first County Tournament game, losing to Wes-Del (11-8) 5-2. Pruitt said last season’s defeat put a chip on the Tigers' shoulders and helped them take a different approach to their games.
“Obviously for the guys that were here last year, we know how hard it is to lose in the first round,” Pruitt said. “We weren't looking forward to the next game this year like we did last year, we were just focused on the moment and were able to get it done.”
Earlier in the season, Pruitt missed two weeks of time due to a shoulder injury, a period of time he said was difficult to get through due to his love for the game.
“I worked my butt off to get as close to ready as I could,” Pruitt said. “It was only two weeks but it felt like eternity for me. So that two weeks I just worked as hard as I could with my physical therapy to get as close to normal and able to be cleared, and then I got my four practices in and I was ready to go on Monday [against Fishers (20-5].”
On the day, Pruitt had a successful campaign at the plate, hitting 5-8 with four RBI and a home run. Fauquher said the Tigers missed Pruitt when he was away and are glad he’s back, however, Yorktown knows they aren’t defined by just one player.
“It's just been a matter all year long of everybody knowing that at some point, they're going to get a chance to contribute and to be ready for that and we've not been a team, all year long, that’s really relied on just a couple of guys,” Fauquher said. “Obviously, your best help you when you got them, but we have tried to and have been successful getting contributions from a lot of different guys.”
Another standout for the Tigers at the plate during their two victories was junior shortstop Cole Temple, who hit 7-10 with four RBI. Heading into the County Tournament, Temple had five home runs, however, he wasn’t pleased with his overall output.
Temple said he remembers a specific practice where his mindset changed and things began to click for him.
“We had a couple of practices where coach put down this yellow sheet and I was on it, and it told me that I needed to not strike out anymore,” Temple said. “So it kind of put me in the right mindset, like, ‘I gotta kick it in gear.’”
In the field, during the Tigers' contests against both the Raiders and Eagles, Temple made multiple errors, some even costing Yorktown a run. He owned up to these errors and didn’t allow himself to dwell on them where they would affect him as a batter.
“It was pretty crucial and I shouldn't have made those mistakes, obviously, but I just shook it off like coach tells me, ‘just shake it off,’” Temple said. “We can't just sit there and drown in it and make compound mistakes.”
The Tigers RBI leader for the day was senior second and first baseman Hayden Carrow, who hit 3-8 with five RBI.
In the second semifinal of the day, the Eagles defeated the Daleville Broncos (3-16) 9-2. Senior pitcher Parker Faletic stood out on the mound for Delta, pitching five and ⅔ innings, giving up two runs, three hits, four walks and striking out 11 Broncos.
Although the Eagles defeated Daleville twice earlier in the season, both games 12-2, Wilburn said he went into the game more focused on his roster, rather than the results of their previous contests.
“I believe in my guys so it's so about us and it's less about them,” Wilburn said. “I felt like if we came out and took care of business and played the way that we're capable of playing that we were going to come out on the right side of that one. You never take anybody lightly. You never overlook them.”