Raiders rally to win D-IX Championship

STRATTANVILLE — After winning the District IX Class AA Championship three years in a row, the Brookville Raiders went on a five-year dry spell. That dry spell ended this season.

Thursday night, the Raiders rallied from an early deficit to take the district title, 15-9 over Karns City.

"They wanted the district title, and they've been phenomenal, working together and picking each other up," Raider head coach Kenny Lindermuth said. "It's just a great team atmosphere that we have going on, and it's been an amazing season. Hopefully, we can keep it rolling next week."

Senior Zane Hackett led the Raiders with two doubles and a single, and being a captain on the team, he said he had a great feeling coming into Thursday's game.

"I am extremely excited; secretly, I think all of us knew that we could do this, but it was stacked against us coming off a three-win season," Hackett said. "It's one of the best feelings that you could ask for when you come in and take care of business and get another title. You can't top that."

The Raiders had a rocky start, giving up four runs in the first two innings, and they were down 5-1 headed into the top of the fourth.

But when senior Seth Connor stepped up to the plate with two men on base, he hit a bases-clearing triple that changed the nature of the game.

"That was big, and it felt good," Connor said. "The last couple of games, I haven't been hitting the ball that great, but I just squared one up and let it go."

Connor's two-RBI hit put Brookville within two of the top-seeded Gremlins, and Lindermuth said he knew how much of a momentum swing that hit turned out to be.

"That was a huge hit," he said. "Seth's that type of guy that everybody else on the team feeds off of. When he tripled there and got everybody pumped, we started to have a good feeling. ... It was a great boost."

Nate Bonfardine helped the Raiders' effort by scoring Connor with a single down the third baseline, and when Brock Beitz hit a two-RBI single to score Pat Brush and Bonfardine, the Raiders took the lead and never looked back.

Because Hackett had a difficult first two innings, sophomore Ashtin Matthews came in for four innings, and he stepped up in a big way.

"He comes in down four in the district finals; I can't imagine what was going through his mind," Lindermuth said. "I tried to calm him down, and he did phenomenal. He's really been an asset coming out of the bullpen here last in the year and picking up big wins for us."

After the Raiders had taken the lead, Matthews threw a shutout in the bottom of the fourth, allowing his offense to continue to pile on the runs.

Connor started the scoring as he sacrificed himself for Nathan St. Laurent to score. Matthews helped his own cause by hitting a single and getting a run in off the bat of Hackett. Dombrowski finished off the inning with a two-RBI double to give the Raiders a 10-5 lead.

The Gremlins pulled within three by scoring two runs in the bottom of the fifth, but the score remained 10-7 until the final inning.

The Raiders added five insurance runs in the top of the seventh, and Lindermuth noted how important those five were to the mentality of the team.

"When you're the visitors in the district final game, you never know what's going to happen," he said. "Knowing Dakota (Singleton) was coming in and his injury situation, the last thing we wanted to see was for it to get tight there and them be able to take advantage of that. It was great to get those five runs and have Dakota come in and finish it off."

And Singleton did just that. Although he gave up two runs in the final inning, he struck out the final batter and let his teammates engulf him in celebration.

"It's an awesome feeling," Connor said after the game. "We had so much potential the previous two years, but it just didn't click. But with this group, we've always played good together the whole way through Little League and Teener League. It's just exciting to see it all pay off."

The Raiders will move on to play Langley, out of District VIII. The game will be played either Tuesday or Wednesday at Clarion-Limestone, and Lindermuth said he will use this time to refocus the group on the next step ahead.

"We're just going to prepare for it the same way that we did (Thursday)," Lindermuth said. "Every game is win or go home. We're going to stick to our game plan. We're not going to let anything change us. We're just going to play the type of baseball that we've played all year and go give it our best shot."