Dahlstrom no-hitter leads the way for North
CLAYTON - When North Putnam senior Brayden Dahlstrom walked the first batter in Thursday's Sectional 44 semifinal against South Vermillion, it looked like he could have a tough night. Early walks usually signal problems for a high school pitcher.
But Dahlstrom had other ideas.
"After the walk, I knew I had to get back in the game," he said.
And get back he did. Dahlstrom allowed just three more base runners on the night in throwing his first career no-hitter against the Wildcats. The Cougars won 8-0 to advance to tonight's sectional title game against county rival South Putnam. They improved to 22-6 on the season.
No Wildcat runner made it past second on the night, and Dahlstrom faced just four batters over the minimum. Three walks and an error gave the South Vermillion its only runners all night.
"Inning-by-inning, we got closer and closer. Then we just closed it out in the last inning," Dahlstrom said.
The "we" part came from the defense Dahlstrom's teammates played behind him. In collecting five strikeouts on the night, the hurler was counting on his teammates. They came through when he needed it.
A long, running catch from right fielder Jerett Ban in the fourth ended the inning and kept the Wildcats from scoring their first runs of the game. Big plays throughout the night from second baseman Kyle Alcorn and short stop Kyle Rooker turned some sharply hit balls into simple outs.
With everyone wanting to congratulate the pitcher, he made sure to direct much of the praise toward his teammates.
"We played almost perfect defense. (Those plays) kept me in the game and kept the no-hitter going," Dahlstrom said.
Cougar coach Norm Fish agreed, citing his entire team's effort.
"Defense was what carried us tonight," he said. The coach also wished to praise his pitcher, though.
"Brayden pitched one heck of a game. I can't say enough about him," Fish said.
"He came into the season with no pitching experience. It took him about half the season to even get where he could go seven innings," the coach added.
On Thursday, he pitched the biggest seven innings of his career.
On the offensive side, the Cougars picked up their share of runs, but with some help from the South Vermillion defense. The Wildcats committed nine errors on the night, allowing the Cougars to score their seven runs on just six hits.
For his part, South Vermillion starter Jackson Ryley pitched well, allowing just four hits and two walks while striking out five in five innings. But the errors around him were just too much. When he was pulled after the fifth, the Cougars were up, 7-0.
"Our bats backed Brayden enough," Fish said. He did add, though, his hitters did a good job of putting the ball in play to make the defense try and make plays. Most times, the defense came up short.
Leading the offensive charge was Rooker, who was 2-for-3 with a double, a triple, two runs batted in and a run scored.
"I'm really pleased with the way Kyle Rooker came through tonight on both sides of the ball," Fish said.
Also collecting two RBI was Brayden's younger brother, Griffen, who drove in each of his runs on sacrifices.
Fish said his team could enjoy their win for a little bit, but the focus would have to return quickly. The Cougars face South Putnam at 7 p.m. tonight. Although the Cougars are 3-0 against the Eagles this season, Fish knows his squad will be facing a hungry bunch.
"We got a little more work to do," he said. "South will be wanting to get us once. We need to be 100 percent from the get-go - and bring the bats."
Sectional 44 Semifinal
North Putnam 210 040 1 - 8 6 2
South Vermillion 000 000 0 - 0 0 9
B. Dahlstrom and Berry (NP). Ryley, Kelsheimer (6) and Smith (SV).
W - Dahlstrom
L - Ryley
2B - Rooker (NP)
3B - Rooker (NP)
Next game - North Putnam faces South Putnam in the Sectional 44 championship game tonight at 7:30 p.m.