By Will Willems Sports Editor
---- — Zionsville - Many of the Zionsville U11 Baseball All-Stars have been in this position before.
Last year, as 9-10 year-olds, the team had to work their way through the losers’ bracket to win the District 8 Tournament and advance to the state finals.
They are one step closer to repeating that feat. Zionsville topped Avon 6-1 Thursday night to advance to the District 8 title game tonight against Brownsburg.
“I was really happy with the way we played,” Zionsville head coach Randy Eugenio said. “Our team has had to play the most games of anyone in the tournament because we are coming through the losers’ bracket to get to this point. It was the same situation we were in last year and now we are playing the same team in Brownsburg.”
Earlier in the District 8 Tournament, Avon had topped Zionsville 8-0, using the same pitcher they used last Saturday in the first meeting.
Eugenio said the team never lost hope despite that first game.
“We felt confident despite losing that first game,” Eugenio said. “We thought we could finally get to him and we were able to do that starting in the third inning.”
The two teams traded scoreless innings in the first two frames. After Zionsville sent Avon down 1-2-3 in the third, its bats went to work.
Will Pfister singled with one out and moved to second when Andrew Davis followed with a single of his own.
After a groundout advanced the runners, Sam Benedict doubled home both runners to make it a 2-0 game.
Avon scored once in the top of the fourth, but the Eagles had the answer in the bottom half of the inning.
Caleb Berrong and Ethan Maluccio drew back-to-back walks with one out.
After a strike out, Pfister singled to drive home Berrong and make it 3-1. Davis reached on an error that allowed Maluccio to score and the score went to 5-1 when Pfister scored on a wild pitch.
Josh Carney capped the scoring, doubling to the left to score Davis.
“I think keeping our confidence up and being patient at the plate were the difference in those two innings,” Eugenio said. “I think we were a little overanxious initially and that seems to be the same thing that has happened every game. If we just stay patient and wait for balls we can hit, we can hit anybody.”
The six runs were more than enough for Davis on the mound.
He only allowed two walks in the final two innings with the lead, and one of those he erased with a highlight-reel catch on a line drive and then doubled the runner off third.
Avon had come into the contest having averaged more than eight runs a game in the district tourney.
“We have a lot of confidence in our defense,” Eugenio said. “A.D. is our No. 1 guy and we feel like he can shut anyone down when he is on his game. Our gloves were also there tonight.”
The Eagles have won three-straight games in the losers’ bracket to advance to the title game.
They have to defeat Brownsburg Friday and then again on Saturday to win the district title.
“We have to have good pitching, good defense in the field and timely hitting,” Eugenio said. “We have to be patient, not swing at balls over our head, and just make good solid contact.”
He said the boys are confident they can repeat what they achieved last season.
“A lot of these guys were here in this situation last year, so they believe they can do it again,” Eugenio said. “We actually played this Brownsburg team in a tournament in Mooresville and split with them, so we know we can beat them and the kids have confidence they can do well against them.”
Gametime today is at 7 p.m. at Lion’s Park in Zionsville.