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It's not a doubleheader, since they'll be playing at the same time in different parks, but a pair of intriguing Class 3A sectional championship games are on tap tonight.
Two teams who played in the state finals last season – albeit in different classes – will face each other as Norwell takes on Northfield at 5:30 p.m. at Bellmont. A half hour later, it'll be a rematch of Summit Athletic Conference rivals as Bishop Dwenger plays Concordia Lutheran at Garrett.
The winners of those two games will join the trophy parade of Class 4A Carroll and Homestead, Class 2A Canterbury and Class A Blackhawk Christian, who all won titles on Saturday.
Here's a look at the two Class 3A games:
Norwell won the Class 3A title last season while Northfield was runnerup in the Class 2A state championship. Since Northfield won the title two years ago, it moved up a class due to the IHSAA success rule. The result is a 3A game between two of the traditionally strongest programs in the state.
Norwell (17-8) lost every starter from its 33-3 team of 2013, including current TinCaps infielder Josh VanMeter. But the group of first-year varsity starters has come on strong, knocking off favored Heritage 6-4 in the Bellmont Sectional semifinal game Saturday. The Knights won despite Heritage's Andrew Saalfrank striking out 18 batters.
Heritage swept a doubleheader over Norwell earlier this season.
“We didn't play very well when we played against them early this year,” Norwell coach Andy McClain said. “We said we were going to get better by the time we faced them in sectional and give them our best, and we did.”
The Knights regularly play two seniors (Logan Dettmer and David Vogel, who combined for the pitching win over Heritage), five juniors (Reggie Hayes, Brandon Burch, Nathan Allison, James Spera and Alex Hunter) and two sophomores (Ryan Tomlin and Zach Kintz). Seniors Zach McGrew, Colyn Torson and Thomas Elliott add depth, along with sophomore Brody Myers and freshman Quentin Middleton.
In the upset of Heritage, Kintz hit a three-run homer after Hayes singled and Burch reached on a bunt single to open the game, a quick start that paid off in confidence against the talented Saalfrank. Dettmer hit the go-ahead run in with a double late in the game.
“We're doing a good job of having fun and doing our thing,” Dettmer said. “Everybody is contributing. Not one person won the (Heritage) game. It was all nine – all 15 – of us.”
Northfield (15-10) has a young team with only one senior, but one with ample talent. Junior catcher Bryce Kendall hit a pair of homers in Northfield's 4-3 win over Columbia City in the semifinals. Junior Shane Vigar pitched a complete-game win. The Norsemen are led by shortstop Adam Roser, who has played in the last two title games.
“It's going to be a lot of fun,” McClain said. “We'll come back Monday ready to get after it.”
These two long-time rivals met twice this season, with Dwenger taking a one-run win in both games. But, also in both games, Concordia loaded the bases in the seventh. It's that close.
Dwenger (16-11) reached the Garrett Sectional title game with a comeback win over heavily favored Leo and a semifinal win over Garrett.
Concordia (13-16) beat New Haven and Bishop Luers to reach the championship.
Both teams have first-year head coaches who have been connected with the programs over the years, with Jason Garrett at Dwenger and Beach Harmon at Concordia.
“Our motto for the year is: 'It's Time,' ” Garrett said. “When we met back in December, thinking about things we wanted to do with the program and coaches to bring on board, we talked about 'It's time.' It's time to fix up the field, it's time to get new uniforms – it's been over 25 years since we had new uniforms – it's time to take this at-bat and make the most of it. Just be competitive day in and day out.”
Dwenger has built around some experience and youth, from seniors Skyler Noll, Luke Palmer and Alex Schenkel to juniors Justin Wagner and Cameron Kahlenback to sophomore pitcher Dalton O'Boyle. “At times we've started six sophomores,” Garrett said.
Concordia, meanwhile, has a mixed roster, relying on some freshmen. But the Cadets are led by seniors in center fielder Jon Poore, who “sets the tempo,” Zach Rekeweg, a workhorse pitcher, and catcher Caleb Wynn. Wynn used to help catch some bullpen as an eighth grader, so Harmon jokingly refers to him as a “fifth-year senior.” Senior Daniel Massucci also adds to the leadership mix.
Mark Mallers starts at shortstop as a freshman, and freshman Nick Bradley started the sectional opener at pitcher. Junior first baseman Tyler Harmon and sophomore pitcher/thrd baseman Mitch Paradine add to the hard-nosed player mix.
Concordia's slogan for the postseason is “Why not us?”
“I told the kids I think we're peaking at the right time,” Harmon said.