Purples beat Spartans to capture District 14 title

Bowling Green is back on top of the District 14 baseball landscape.

The Purples — the top seed in the 2019 District 14 Tournament — captured their first district title since 2015 with a 6-4 win over second-seeded South Warren on Wednesday evening in the championship game at Harold J. Stahl Field.

BGHS (28-10 overall, 12-2 District 14) built a 3-0 lead after four innings, but South Warren fired back with a four-run fifth to jump in front. Trailing 4-3, the Purples went on to score three unanswered runs to come out on top with the district crown.

“Anytime you win 25 games or more and win a district title, you’ve had a very good season,” first-year Bowling Green coach Nathan Isenberg said. “Ball players were already here. These guys have been well-coached by the previous coaches and well-coached all through Little League.

“I do a few things different and we’ve added some wrinkles and guys have taken to it. I hope it’s a fun brand of baseball and exciting and people want to watch it — and kids love playing it.”

Bo Morton led the way for Bowling Green, which finished with seven total hits, with a 2-for-2 showing at the plate. In addition to the catcher, five different Purples finished with one hit apiece while five also recorded RBI.

Purples’ ace Jackson Haga — a Liberty signee — allowed seven hits but no earned runs with six strikeouts in a complete-game fashion to earn the win on the mound.

“We had to come out here and take care of business because this doesn’t really mean anything. We got a spot in region last night,” Haga said of he and his team being unsually calm after winning the championship. “So, come out here and win this game — and the next one’s when we celebrate.”

After two-and-a-half scoreless innings, Bowling Green was the first to breakthrough in the bottom of the third.

Behind three hits, a hit-by-pitch and an error, the Purples sent three runs across the plate. With the bases loaded after singles from Eli Burwash and Joe Howard and Evan Spader being hit, Haga reached on an E5 and Burwash scored in the process for the first run of the game.

Geoffrey Ross followed up with a single to send Spader home, and Carson Kelley connected with a pitch for an RBI sacrifice fly out to give Bowling Green a 3-0 lead entering the fourth.

“We’re doing a great job this year as a pitching staff — probably have a top-25 ERA in the state — and our bats are hot right now,” Haga said. “If we keep swinging it, we’ll beat anybody in the state. I truly believe.”

South Warren (26-12, 10-4) found its answer in the top of the fifth — and in a big way.

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Trailing by three runs, the Spartans put together a four-run frame to jump in front at 4-3. With a pair on, AJ Isable recorded an RBI double and Sam Gage followed with an RBI sacrifice ground out to get within 3-2.

Soon after, with two outs on the board, Tyler Martin sent a pitch into deep centerfield to give him a double and send a pair of runners home in the process to make it 4-3 South.

“There’s was no doubt Jackson could finish the game (after the four runs scored),” Isenberg said of Haga. “He’s a workhorse. He’s a true ace. There’s not many in the state like him. I knew if we could hold ’em we’d come back and get some runs. We just kept pecking at it and got what we needed.”

The Purples wasted no time responding to being down as it quickly plated a run in the bottom half of the fifth to even things at 4-all. After Haga reached on a fielder’s choice — and with Charlie Key serving as his courtesy runner, Ross stepped to the plate and reached on an error, which allowed Key to score all the way from second and tie it.

Another error by South Warren in the bottom of the sixth led to Bowling Green scoring another run. With Kelley on after reaching on an E6, Maddox Burr soon laid down a single, which gave Kelley plenty of distance to cross the plate and put the Purples up 5-4. A two-out RBI single from Spader later gave the Purples a 6-4 lead entering the seventh.

Needing two runs to extend the game or three to walkoff, South Warren earned a single from Cade Vernon but wouldn’t be able to get anything across and Bowling Green came out on top.

“A three-spot against Haga is a big hole, so I’m very proud of the answer to take the lead against Haga down three,” South Warren coach Chris Gage said of his team overcoming its early deficit. “He’s a great pitcher — and a tough kid, too. He’s not going to give you anything, so our hitters had to square up the ball, and they did.”

The two sides now turn their attention to the Region 4 Tournament, which begins Monday at WKU’s Nick Denes Field. The draw to determine the tournament bracket will be held Saturday morning.

“We just need to come with the mentality to hit the ball hard, play defense error-free, pitchers throw strikes and I think we’ll be in good shape,” Howard said.

SWHS — 0 0 0 0 4 0 0 — 4

BGHS — 0 0 3 0 1 2 X — 6

WP: Haga.     LP: Smith.

Tyler Mansfield@ByMansfield

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