"Wow," North Putnam coach Norm Fish said with a smile.
Wow proved to be an understatement.
Both teams started the game strong, but the Cougars got on the board in the bottom of the third inning as J.T. Francies and Mullis scored. The big hit in the inning belonged to catcher Jordan Berry who jacked a single to the center field fence to bring Mullis home.
Triton Central answered back in the fourth when Jordan Martin scored on a Derek Johnson hit to right field. But with some great defensive plays, the Cougars held the Tigers scoreless the rest of the game.
North's final run came in the fifth as Berry scored on a Griffen Dahlstrom laser shot to the shortstop, who couldn't handle the offering. That would be all Mullis needed to close the game out.
Mullis pitched a complete game, recording eight strikeouts and three walks but fell into trouble in the seventh inning. With one out, second baseman Kyle Alcorn made an almost superhuman catch in foul territory as he dove for the catch and helped move the game closer to its conclusion. Opposing pitcher Kyle Knapp hit a pop fly to senior Shelby Reed for the final out, sending the Cougars to the semi-state. After the game, Mullis acknowledged he had a little trouble on the mound.
"I was pretty tight the whole game," Mullis said after the contest. "I only had two days (off) so I tightened up a little bit and I couldn't really get loose."
Talking about his seventh-inning struggle, Mullis pointed to the tightness as being the possible culprit.
"Yeah, I think it was the tightness. It was also the seventh inning, so I might have had some nerves going on," Mullis said.
For first-year head coach, Fish was quick to give Triton Central its due. He commented about the play in the field as well as Knapp's performance on the mound.
"He had four pitches," Fish noted. "He had a change-up, a fastball, a curveball and then something else we didn't know what it was, so he had a lot of stuff."
Fish also addressed the fact that the team is performing well, with seniors and underclassmen both stepping up and making the plays to put them in position to keep on winning.
"That's what it takes," Fish commented about his team coming together. "We are where we're at and it's because of that."
And Mullis agreed.
"Everybody steps up at the right times and we seem to be having less and less mistakes in the field," Mullis said. "I think we've been getting better and better throughout the whole year."
"I told them sectional wasn't enough -- you've worked too hard," Fish added.
The most satisfying aspect of the win on Tuesday night for Fish was the satisfaction he saw as he looked at his group of players.
"These boys, I'm just so happy for them. I see a bunch of smiles over there and they worked so hard," Fish said. "There's not an 'I' in that bunch."
Looking back on the season so far, Fish is impressed by his team's improvement but made it clear he and the Cougars are not content with a regional win.
"It's been a fun year so far but we're not done. We're still playing baseball," Fish said. "Getting these guys back in the field this weekend is going to be a ball. I can't wait."
Up next for ninth-ranked North (24-6) will be sixth-ranked Wapahani (25-5) in the second game of the Class 2A semistate at Southridge Saturday.
At North Putnam
IHSAA Class 2A Regional
Triton Central 000 100 0 -- 1 1 3
North Putnam 002 010 x -- 3 5 1
Knapp and Persinger (TC); Mullis and Berry (NP)
WP -- Mullis (13-0)
LP -- Knapp
Next game -- North Putnam will take on Wapahani in the second game of the Class 2A Southridge Semistate on Saturday.