Dixie takes down Bradford in pitcher’s duel setting them up for shot at conference title

Dixie's Carson Sexton threw a shutout, striking out 10 to give the Greyhounds a 1-0 win over Bradford to go to 8-1 in the WOAC with one league game remaining. (Dale Barger photo)

NEW LEBANON – The Dixie baseball team took a step forward in their quest to win a WOAC league championship by defeating Bradford 1-0 in a pitchers’ duel between Carson Sexton and Bradford’s Tucker Miller.

If you look at the Greyhounds record coming into the game 8-10, you might underestimate them as they haven’t won a non-conference game but when it comes to the WOAC they have been on a tear, now 8-1 with one league games left on the schedule with eyes on a possible title.

When I asked Dixie coach Austin Schaar about it he mentioned having a tough non-conference schedule … but the most important factor is how the team’s focus and play rises to another level in league games.

“It’s a different mindset for these boys. They’re, daunting for these conference games.  These guys play together better than I’ve ever seen and play unselfish, especially in big games like this, really focused on wanting to win a league title,” Schaar explained.

Bradford also coming into the game had high aspirations of competing for a league title at 14-1 overall coming off a big win 8-4 over Newton handing the Indians their first league loss.

But the Railroaders fall one behind in the league now at 5-2, while Arcanum and Dixie sit at 8-1 and Newton 6-1.

It was a game that could go either way as both teams had their stallions come out of the stable to take the hill and early on you knew it was going to be battle of pitchers waiting to see which team could take advantage of their opportunities to pull this one out.

Both pitchers threw complete games and had good stuff throughout.

Tucker Miller threw six innings striking out nine and walked three batters.  He gave up just two hits and one run.

Tucker Miller threw a great game but the Railroaders were unable to get the bats out to support his efforts. (Dale Barger photo)

Carson Sexton threw seven innings, striking out 10 and walked one batter.  He gave up four hits and no runs picking up the shutout win 1-0 over Bradford.

Bradford had a few missed opportunities early in the game with a runner being picked off at first base in the first-inning and then in the fifth-inning the Greyhounds turned a popped bunt into a double play taking away potential Railroader opportunities.

Bradford junior Owen Canan put the bat on the ball for a single but was picked off at 1st base to squelch an early game opportunity. (Dale Barger photo)

Dixie was able to produce the winning run when given their chance.  The Hounds drew back-to-back walks by Kaiden Hypes and JR Bemis to start the bottom of the 6th inning.

Coach Schaar then opted for more speed at second substituting Wyatt Himan for Hypes and it would pay off.  After a pass ball both Himan and Bemis moved to 3rd and 2nd base with no outs.

Caleb Johnson then sent a fly to short left field that was snagged by leftfielder followed by a throw to home, the throw was a bit out of reach for the catcher as Himan scored … but on his heals was Bemis. Catcher Trey Schmelzer was able to run the ball down and deliver a good throw to Tucker Miller covering home plate for the tag out of Bemis on a bang-bang play for two outs.

Dixie #13 Wyatt Himan scores the winning run after tagging up from 3rd base on a fly-out to left field. (Dale Barger photo)

But the damage was done with Dixie up 1-0 heading into top of 7th inning with Bradford having one last chance to get the sticks out and rally.

Sexton was able to get Wills to ground out … but Schmelzer would hit a deep ball over the leftfielder going to the fence as he coasted into second base with a double putting for the tying run on with 1 out.

Carson Sexton then took matters into his own hands coming up with consecutive strikeouts giving Dixie a huge win.

After the game coach Schaar talked about his ace effort on the hill.

“He was dialed in from the start, was throwing the ball hard and with good location.  Toward the end of last season, he elevated to a higher level and that has continued into this year,” Schaar said.

“It started at the end of last spring.  We had so many games we were winning close or losing close, and that really got under Carson’s skin.   So, you might have seen today’s work … but that doesn’t show how many hours and hours he worked, perfecting his craft of pitching.  Today he showed that the amount of work he put in and time he spent getting his mind right,” Schaar boasted.

I spoke to Carson after the game, and I can attest to seeing Carson doing extra work after the interview.  While everyone had left the field he was taking laps along the outfield fence putting in extra conditioning work. Carson talked about the team goal was to win a league title and he knew it was going to take an extra ordinary effort on his part going against Bradford and Tucker Miller to keep them in the hunt.

JR Bemis saw lots of action on the infield and had a number of putouts. (Dale Barger photo)

“So, before our year even started, we had a goal to win the WAOC. So, just keeping that in mind and knowing it was going to be me versus Tucker, I knew I had to throw my game to stay in it and it was going to be a mental battle between me and Tucker and fortunately we were able to come out on top,” Sexton said.

I noticed after the game Sexton paying his respect to Tucker Miller, last year’s WOAC player of the year which I thought was a classy move.

“Yeah, right after the game I walked over and shook his hand and said you’re a stud dude,  keep shoving man, you’re going to have a nice career.  I have a lot of respect for him, his off speed pitch and how hard he throws too and he was locating it as well … I know he got me three times at the plate today, he’s an amazing pitcher,” Sexton stated.

The performance Sexton had against Bradford, and so far this season now puts him in the realm of being a great pitcher as well.  He has a .95 ERA and is 2nd in the league just behind Tucker Miller’s 58 strikeouts, with 53 while also picking up his 4th win of the season.

Bradford coach Derrick Skinner was disappointed with the loss but knew coming in it was going to be a tough game.

“We ran into a really good pitcher tonight and it comes down to execution.  I feel that we had a couple of opportunities with a couple baserunners we lost, but overall, somebody’s got to step up and lead and refuse to lose in a close game like this,” Skinner said.

The Bradford baseball team came up short at Dixie and reflects after the game. (Dale Barger photo)

But sometimes that’s baseball and that doesn’t detract from the kind of season Bradford is having but will need some help in the last two weeks to have any chance of a title look.

“Yes our team really stepped up and kind of took ownership of things early this year and has hit the ball well … but we ran into a couple good pitchers at Arcanum and now Dixie.  Those are the kinds of games you’ve got to find a way to win, especially going into the tournament,” Skinner concluded.

It was a close game that Dixie pitcher Carson Sexton won’t forget.

Carson Sexton and Dillon Phillips celebrate after Carson struck out the last two batters in the game 7th inning for their 8 league win this season in the WOAC. (Dale Barger photo)

“It’s just unreal. The adrenaline … and I’m sure you saw my emotions running after the game, it feels great to get this win.   It’s what you work all year for. It’s what you train in the offseason for, games like this. When the coach puts you on the mound to be that guy to get the win and you prove he’s right, prove to the team and fans he was right for putting me in that position, it just feels absolutely amazing,” Sexton concluded.

Dixie has one league game remaining with 6-1 Newton on Thursday, May 9th.  A win against the Indians would secure at least a share of a the WOAC league title which would be the first since 1967.

The Dixie baseball team has an opportunity to do something that hasn’t been done in 57 years.  They have a chance to win a league title with a win over Newton on May 9th. (Dale Barger photo)