by Gary Andrews
Most teams never make it to the state championship. The Northfield baseball team was one win away Saturday, June 15, from a shot at winning back-to-back state championships. The 2012 state champions were taking on South Spencer, who was the 2011 state champs. Without the services of first baseman Joseph Ross, who reported to the Army after the semi-state, plus knowing it would be the last game Norse coach Tony Uggen would coach at Northfield after announcing he was taking the athletic director and baseball job at Blackford, one would wonder what the effects would be.
The usual hard hitting Norse would collect just four hits in the game, while starting pitcher Ryan Keaffaber would struggle as South Spencer pulled off the upset in a 3-2 win over Northfield for the state title.
Northfield was the home team and after two strike outs, Keaffaber would give up a single and a walk before his third strikeout to get out of the inning. The Norse went three up and three down to head to the second with the game scoreless.
The second inning got started with second baseman Collin Dawes making a great diving catch behind second base before South Spencer would strike. A one out triple and a two out single put the Rebels up 1-0 with the Norse coming to the plate. Andy Roser would start the bottom of the inning with a triple, then score on a passed ball to knot the score at one, before three straight outs would end the inning.
Keaffaber would walk two in the third and give up a single and a walk in the fourth, managing to get out of both innings without giving up a run. Unfortunately the Norse would not put a runner on in those two innings as the game headed to the fifth still tied at one.
South Spencer would make some noise in the fifth. After a walk and two bunt singles loaded the bases with no outs, Keaffaber would bare down to strike out the next two before a seeing eye bloop single over Andy Roser at third would score two runs to give the Rebels a 3-1 lead. The Norse would try to answer in the bottom of the inning. Bryce Kendall got things going with a single and was followed by Shane Vigar going up the middle, but an outstanding diving play by the shortstop got the force at second. After another force at second made it two outs, freshman Drake Richter would draw a walk, with pinch runner Austin Curless at second. On a delayed appeal play on a swing, Curless was caught off guard at second being picked off to end the inning.
Keaffaber would strike out three in the sixth and hold South Spencer in the seventh to give the cardiac kids one more shot. Ryan Keaffaber would lead off, reaching on a Rebel error and was advanced to third on an Andy Roser single. After a pop out, Shane Vigar would single home Keaffaber to make it 3-2 with the tying run on second. The Norse couldn't muster one more hit, popping out and flying out to end the run, falling to South Spencer 3-2.
Before the team was awarded the runner-up trophy and medals, Ryan Keaffaber would be named the L.V. Phillips mental attitude award winner to cap off a remarkable career.