The Wes-Del Warriors hoped that they would return to the 1A State Championship for the first time since the 1990 season.
But they would fall two games short as they were defeated 6-2 in their first semi-state game.
“I'm extremely proud of them,” Wes-Del head coach Daniel Hanson said. “This moment sucks and they're hurting. I told them [in the post-game huddle] how proud I am of them and that we came here today to fight and they did that.”
The Warriors (21-9, 5-3 Mid-Eastern) came into the contest at Loeb Stadium with a lot of momentum. They had just won their first regional championship since the 1990 season and wanted to continue that streak.
To do so, they had to get past Lafayette Central Catholic (24-11, 8-1 Hoosier).
To start the game, it looked like the Warriors would get the start they wanted as they loaded the bases. But the Knights were able to strand the runners. Then in the bottom of the second, Lafayette’s offense kicked in.
Wes-Del’s starting pitcher, senior Travis Bunch, walked a Knight and then hit two consecutive batters. After that, multiple Lafayette hits and walks allowed them to take the 5-0 lead.
“[Bunch] just was struggling a little bit with his command there,” Hanson said. “He's been solid for us all year and I knew mentally that he's a competitor.”
But after the inning, Bunch settled in and completed the game. He ended his final high school game with five strikeouts.
“It was definitely a fun season,” Bunch said. “I had a lot of fun with these guys… and I was glad that I played well this season.”
After going down early in the game, the Warriors struggled to find a rhythm on offense. But Wes-Del would not go down without a fight.
In the top of the sixth, the Warriors hit the scoreboard when sophomore Greyson Mealy clobbered a standup RBI triple. This gave the team a positive vibe and they were able to bring Mealy home as well.
This effort by Mealy and the rest of the underclassmen gives Hanson a positive look at the future.
“You learn from experiences as humans,” Hanson said. “...[This game] is also valuable for those underclassmen to get in this moment and stage and learn from it.”
One thing that stood out to the Warriors wasn’t on the field. Even though Lafayette is about two hours away from Muncie, that did not stop the Warrior faithful from showing up.
“We've had so much support from our community,” Hanson said. “Family, parents, students, administration, it's just been awesome. And that's the amazing thing about when you get to this moment. It's more than just baseball. We're playing for our community and our school.”
The Warriors are losing three seniors this season. That includes Bunch, senior Dawson Bookout, and senior Connor Smith. To Hanson, he could not have asked for better athletes.
“They've raised the bar and our standard of what's expected, day in and day out,” he said. “They've put in the work and earned these last few weeks and have been a lot of fun. A lot of that's because of their leadership and their effort and, and things that they've continued to do.”
Even though they won’t be playing for Wes-Del anymore, Hanson hopes that they will return to root for their alma mater.
“I want you [seniors] to be proud to come back in a couple of years,” he said. “I want this moment to be a springboard that when you come back, you think 'the momentum started when we won that sectional, and here we are. I want you to come back and feel that support and be a part of the community. When [the school] goes into other sports, we can use this as success to push other things.”