SOUTH BEND — The end of a team's season at any level is an emotional time for the coaches on down to the players.
For South Central's baseball team Saturday night, it was more than just the end of the line this year at Four Winds Field in the Class A regional title game against Porter County Conference rival Washington Township.
"You're the sons I've never had," S.C. coach Ryan Kruszka said to his band of six seniors down the right field line in a post-game discussion after the Satellites' 6-2 loss to the Senators in the nightcap after a wild 5-3 victory over Fremont in the semifinal a few hours prior.
The Satellites jumped out to a 2-0 lead after an inning, looking to dispatch the Senators for the third time in three tries this season. But a four-run third inning that saw just two hits from the visitors eventually doomed the Satellites and their quest to make the semistate for the first time since the 2010-11 campaign.
"(Former La Porte) coach (Ken) Schreiber came over years ago before the tournament and said, stay away from the big inning," Senators coach Randy Roberts said. "If you give up the big inning, it's probably going to be enough to win, and we got the four."
Behind the usual lead of Bradley-bound Carson Husmann (2-for-2, 2 BB) and Valparaiso commit Kyle Schmack (0-for-2, 2 BB), the Satellites plated two in the opening frame. Husmann swiped second during Schmack's at-bat and advanced to third on a dirt ball read after Schmack reached on a free pass. Trent Smoker, the hero from Saturday's afternoon victory over the Eagles, singled home Husmann, and then, on a squeeze attempt gone (almost) wrong from BJ Intagliata, Schmack's quick reaction allowed him to steal home with Smoker advancing 90 feet.
The advantage wouldn't last long, as Washington Township seized control for good in the third off a couple crucial mishaps by the S.C. defense. Michael Funk led the big inning off with a ringing double down the right field line and advanced to third on a sacrifice bunt by Chaz Brown.
After Bryce Malamatos walked and attempted to steal second, S.C. catcher Karson Bailey launched a throw into center field to make it 2-1. Steven Hernandez was hit by a pitch by Husmann, who walked six in just 2 1/3 innings of work. As Hernandez attempted a steal of second, Schmack misplayed Bailey's throw at the bag, letting Malamatos trot in to tie the game. Starting pitcher Will Roberts walked, and then, Matt Rogers launched a towering two-run double to deep left, and just like that, it was 4-2 Senators, a lead they wouldn't let evaporate.
"It was the usual when we've lost games. We did not play well enough to win the game," Kruszka said. "We made a couple of errors early, and then, another one that put a run on the board late, and then, another run late, and they know that. We did not play our best baseball game today. I wish we would have. That's a good program. They played well and you have to play well to beat them. That's what we say every time we play them."
After Husmann and Smoker singles in the first, S.C. mustered just four hits in the final six innings off Roberts and reliever Steven Hernandez, who picked off Logan Moser (2-for-3) twice after Moser led off two innings with hits.
"I think we just weren't exactly as locked in as we should've been," Schmack said. "We beat them twice and could've easily beaten them a third time, but they capitalized on our mistakes and they didn't make any. It's really as simple as that."
Although their jerseys will say different schools on them next season for their respective Missouri Valley Conference universities, Schmack plans to keep in touch with his fellow S.C. bash brother. After their travel baseball schedule ends this summer, they will go their separate ways before seeing each other again during next year's series between the two schools.
"We know the anticipation for it," Schmack said on the impending Bradley-Valpo series next season. "It's at Valpo next year, so we're already talking about it, 'Hey, I'm gonna take (Carson) out to dinner after the game' because at that point, I wouldn't have seen him for a while and I'm used to seeing him every single day. It's gonna be different for sure, but he's still the best friend that I've known forever."
"It's gonna be cool that we get to play against each other," Husmann added. "Hopefully, some of our guys can come out and watch us, too. It'll be like a little reunion for everybody. I'm looking forward to it."
With the loss, the Satellites will depart with Husmann, Schmack, Intagliata, Moser, Wes Battleday and Brant Popplewell, a group that finished their high school careers with 73 victories and four sectional crowns in four years.
"They're all different and that's what I love about them," Kruszka said on this senior group and the classes of years past. "I can tell you things about each group that makes them different and that's a good thing. They're teaching the younger guys new things and different things that the guys the year before didn't. I'm kinda speechless because they're such a great group. They're gonna do great things in life and like I told them before, they're gonna remember other things besides the loss in the regional. They're gonna remember the times on the bus, times in the dugout, rain delays ... they're gonna remember things like that and that's what it's all about."
Class A Regional Championship
At Four Winds Field
Washington Township 6, South Central 2
Carson Husmann reached base four times.