Celebration

The Zionsville baseball team celebrates winning the sectional title.

Zionsville baseball coach Jered Moore knows that it is a big accomplish to come out of Sectional 8, especially having to win three games to do it.

But he also knows his team isn’t satisfied with just being sectional champions.

So after enjoying their sectional title on Monday night, the Eagles have immediately gotten back to work as they prepare for Saturday’s regional at Loeb Stadium in Lafayette.

“We celebrated it, but I think everyone knows there is a larger goal in mind,” Moore said. “The guys have been really focused the last few days in practice and are really getting after it. The biggest thing right now is taking it one game at a time to get to our goal.”

One thing that has been a big help for the Eagles as they reset their focus is the veteran group they have.

The Eagles have five seniors in their starting line-up, and two others that have some key varsity experience.

Six of those players got experience in last year’s sectional loss to Carmel, so they know what happens if you don’t play your best in the post-season.

“That definitely helps,” Moore said. “Not only do we have a pretty veteran team with a lot of seniors, but we have a lot of smart kids who have played a lot of baseball. They study the game of baseball, and they have seen a lot of games this year and in past years, where the best team on paper doesn’t always win. We are solely focused on Harrison, and we know that we can’t win the regional unless we win that first game.”

The fact that the Eagles are in this position is a testament to the mindset of their players and the growth they showed throughout the season.

During a stretch in late April, the Eagles lost four of five games to fall to 8-9 on the year.

But they have won 12 of their next 14 heading into the regional.

Moore said that during the skid, the Eagles weren’t playing to their capabilities, especially offensively.

During the first 17 games, the Eagles averaged just 3.3 runs a game. Since, they are averaging 5.9.

“We weren’t taking many quality at bats,” Moore said. “We were getting guys on base, and just weren’t getting them in. I think we realized at that point that we weren’t going to win conference, but we still have a team that is talented enough to go deep in the tournament. The focus became just winning one game at a time, and they’ve done a good job of that, not looking ahead.”

During their stretch at the end of the year, the Eagles faced Harrison and beat the Raiders 9-1.

The Eagles didn’t face Harrison ace Ethan McCormick in that game, who comes into the game with a 9-0 record a 0.32 ERA.

“From everything we have gathered on him, he is pretty good,” Moore said. “And while we didn’t see him, we were able to see their defense and their hitters. Drew pitched that game, and I’m not sure if we would have thrown him if we knew we would face them in the regional, but at the same time he had some success. I have a lot of confidence with him on the mound. We have to put the ball in play, and put the pressure on their defense.”

While the Eagles didn’t face McCormick, Moore said the Eagles’ schedule helped the team prepare for him – and any of the other top arms they will see this post-season.

The Eagles faced five teams still alive in Class 4A, plus the always tough HCC that featured numerous future Division I pitchers.

They also face the Alabama 6A Champs, a Tennessee State Finalist and another Tennessee qualifier.

“We try to make a schedule as tough as we can,” Moore said. “Looking at MaxPreps, I think we have the toughest schedule in the state. The good thing about that, as you go deeper in the tournament and the teams get really good – we won’t see a team where we can’t say, ‘we have seen a team just as good as them.’ We have faced quite a few teams still left in the tournament, and I don’t think we are going to see anything that the kids haven’t already seen before this season.”

Will Willems is the Sports Editor of the Lebanon Reporter. Follow him on Twitter @Will_Willems.

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