On Thursday, South Putnam added a seventh-inning insurance run when Grant Zimmerman drove in Cameron Chestnut to make the score 6-1. The Eagles cashed in on their policy, though, holding off a Covenant Christian rally for the 6-5 sectional win.
With the five-run lead, two outs and one man on, it looked like Zimmerman would cruise to a complete-game victory. The Warriors had other plans.
Hazen Hamather and Spencer Moore reached on consecutive singles. Moore's hit seemed to hang in the air forever before falling to the ground between the dives of Drew Cash, Cameron Chestnut and Rob Gibson. Sam Schinderle and Hamather both scored to make it 6-3.
A Jeff McClintic double scored Moore and kept the threat alive. After an Aaron Williams Walk, pinch hitter Zac Riffle drew the Warriors within one on an RBI single.
"They did a good job of finding holes in the defense -- kind of like we did in the first part of the game, they started doing it in the later part of the game," South Putnam coach Ryan Gillman said.
With the score 6-5, Gilman left the dugout to pull his ace, but catcher Brayden Freeman and first baseman Derek Dean waived him off. They settled their teammate down, and he went to work, striking out Alex McIntyre to end the game.
After the game, Gilman said it was invaluable to have teammates who know Zimmerman as well as they do.
"They've played a lot of baseball and they've been around Grant a long time," Gilman said. "It's good to see Grant battle back and make pitches when he needed. In the battle before they made the bloop single in to center field there, he made some pretty good pitches and hitter did a good job.
"He battled back and said 'that battle doesn't matter' and just went right on to the next guy,"
Zimmerman got the victory on the night, allowing five runs on nine hits, two walks and two hit batsmen in seven innings. He struck out eight.
Zimmerman also did some heavy lifting offensively, he and Chestnut drove in all six Eagle runs between them, as well as scoring five of the six runs.
The duo opened the game with consecutive home runs to right field off Warrior starter Cody Gaddis to make it 2-0. Gilman said the two quick bombs got his team off to the start it needed.
"It's huge, especially playing a team of Covenant Christian's ability," he said. "It's nice to get a few runs in the first inning, especially when we've been struggling getting runs in the early innings this last part of the season. It's nice to get going there."
In the second, Chestnut and Zimmerman were at it again. After Rob Gibson reached on a double, Chestnut sent a triple down the left field line to score Gibson.
Zimmerman then hit his second home run of the night to make it 5-0 and chase Gaddis from the game.
Zimmerman finished the night 3-for-4 with two home runs, four RBIs and two runs scored. Chestnut had a homer, a triple, three RBIs, three runs and a steal. Gibson and John Spencer each had a double.
Williams relieved Gaddis, pitching 4 2/3 innings of scoreless ball. McClintic allowed one run on one hit and a walk in the seventh, taking the loss.
If there are any concerns for the Eagles heading into Monday's semifinal, the come in the form of the three errors they committed and nine men left on base.
Gilman sees good things, though.
"We still want to continue to make the plays that we need to make," he said. "We want to make sure that we keep hitting the ball and focus on that."
South Putnam faces the winner of North Putnam and Cascade at approximately noon Monday.
At North Putnam
IHSAA Baseball Sectional 46
South Putnam 230 000 1 -- 6 9 3
Covenant Christian 001 000 4 -- 5 9 5
Zimmerman and Freeman; Gaddis, Williams (2), McClintic (7) and Hamather.
WP -- Zimmerman
LP -- McClintic
2B -- Spencer, Gibson (SP), McClintic (CC)
3B -- Chestnut (SP)
HR -- Zimmerman 2, Chestnut (SP)
RBI -- Zimmerman 4, Chestnut 2 (SP), Moore 2, Gegg, McClintic, Riffle (CC)
SB -- Chestnut