‘It’s pretty surreal’: Ritter wins first state baseball title – Indianapolis Star
The Raiders won 10-4 at Victory Field on Friday, June 16.
Dakota Crawford, Joe Spears/IndyStar
INDIANAPOLIS — Cardinal Ritter’s first baseball state championship finished with a flourish.
Senior shortstop Alex Vela cut down Drew Young’s groundball up the middle with a diving stop to his left and fired to first baseman Henry Woodcock to finish off Wapahani with a 10-4 win in the Class 2A state championship on Friday night at Victory Field.
“I wanted the ball hit to me, let’s just say that,” said Vela, a defensive wizard who stifled numerous rallies all season. “It was beautiful. I’m glad it was hit to me.”
How Cardinal Ritter got here: Ace Blake Malatestinic leads Raiders in chase of first state title
Ritter (28-3) had its ace on the mound in senior Blake Malatestinic, who allowed nine hits and three earned runs in a complete-game effort. Malatestinic was staked to a 6-0 lead after four innings, almost an impossible task for Wapahani against a pitcher who finished the season with a 0.55 earned run average (a school record) and 12 wins (tied for a school record).
Malatestinic also was awarded the Class 2A Mental Attitude Award.
“It’s pretty surreal,” Malatestinic said. “I’ve been working all my career for something special like this. It’s a team effort and it’s something special that we have here. For as happy as I am, I’m really going to miss everyone. I’m going to miss this. But it’s really something special.”
Before he leaves for Eastern Illinois, Malatestinic was able to help deliver the program’s first state baseball title. The Raiders pushed across three runs in the third inning with a two-out rally that started with the speedy Vela’s infield single to shortstop. Vela stole second and scored the game’s first run with Kyle Price’s grounder glanced off the gloves of third baseman Brevan Rivers and shortstop Chandler Wise and into the outfield.
The next batter, left-handed hitter Jake Kluemper, blasted a triple to right field. He scored when Malatestinic walked and stole second.
“We could feel (the momentum) a little bit,” Ritter coach Dave Scott said. “(Kluemper’s hit) was a bomb. But we knew that this Wapahani team was tough. They are young and scrappy. We knew we couldn’t let up with three runs. We had to keep going and going. That was our mindset the whole time.”
Ritter tacked on three more runs in the fourth inning when Dillon Olejnik tripled with one out and scored on a single by Vela to left field. Four batters later, Ben Egenolf’s bases-loaded, two-out single made it 6-0.
The six-run deficit seemed like a mountain to climb for Wapahani (19-12), which was seeking its second state title after winning it in 2014.
“I feel like we just need one run and hopefully they just keep coming through the game,” Malatestinic said.
Wapahani got its bats going in the fifth inning after loading the bases with no outs on an error, single and intentional walk. Stephen Vickery singled to center for Wapahani’s first run and Garett Stanley followed with a two-run single to left field to make it 6-3. But during that play, Vickery was thrown out attempting to advance to third base.
Malatestinic was able to retire the next two batters and get out of the inning.
“I knew they had a ton of momentum,” Malatestinic said. “That inning, we had a bad start. I tip my hat to them because they had a ton of hits where it was placed. I just wanted to stick to my game and keep hitting spots. I was trying to stay ahead and pitch my game.”
Wapahani’s three pitchers — Alec Summers, Wise and Rivers — allowed eight walks and threw a total of 173 pitchers. Malatestinic walked one and threw 95 pitches.
“He is outstanding,” Scott said of his star pitcher. “I don’t know what else you can say. He’s been like that all year. He was again tonight. You know when you put Blake on the mound you are in good shape.”
Call IndyStar reporter Kyle Neddenriep at (317) 444-6649. Follow him on Twitter: @KyleNeddenriep.