ELKHART — Northridge pitcher Davis Enfield was masterful and in the middle of some controversy Monday in a Class 4A Elkhart Sectional championship game against Penn.
Enfield's ability to get out of jams helped lift the Raiders to a 2-0 win over the No. 5-ranked Kingsmen.
A state-mandated pitch limit prevented the junior hurler from getting the final out.
Entering the final batter, Enfield had thrown 122 pitches. According to Indiana High School Athletic Association rules, no pitcher can throw 120 pitches or more in a calendar day and only more if a pitcher has thrown less than that before starting a new batter.
After Enfield threw his 123rd pitch, which was a ball to Penn's C.J. Kavadas, Penn coach Greg Dikos stopped the game and talked to the umpires about Enfield's pitch count.
Eventually, Enfield was removed from the game and replaced by Cam Knepp. Knepp recorded a save after getting a strikeout for the final out.
That final out ended Penn's sectional championship streak at five years. Northridge (22-7) advances to play No. 10-ranked Mishawaka (25-6) in regional semifinal play next Saturday around 1 p.m. at LaPorte High School.
It's the first sectional title since 2015 for the Raiders and their seventh overall.
But the conversation after the game centered around how Enfield's day ended.
"I'm completely confused," said Northridge coach Andrew Brabender about the pitch count issue. "I thought 120-plus meant he could pitch more. It's my fault. That wasn't my interpretation of the rule."
Brabender was asked if what happened Monday would affect his status or Enfield's for the regional.
"I don't know," the Raiders coach said.
Penn coach Greg Dikos was asked what the next move would be for his school.
"I'll talk to my athletic director and administration," said Dikos.
In a similar situation last June, an Indianapolis Scecina pitcher was disqualified for the semi-state after throwing too many pitches at a regional.
After a very shaky start, it looked improbable that Enfield would last even one inning against Penn.
He walked the first three batters he faced in the top of the first inning and the Raiders appeared in danger of facing a large deficit early.
But instead of trailing, Enfield got re-focused and recorded a strikeout and a double play off a sharp grounder to get out of the jam. The double play went from shortstop Ben Becker to second baseman Jamon Christner to first baseman Nick Logan.
"Davis can get out of any situation with his slider," Brabender said. "It was a huge momentum swing. His slider was really dirty with lots of bite to it."
"He was just a little amped up I think (at the start), as most of our kids were. It took him awhile to relax and settle down."
It wasn't the last jam that Enfield had to wiggle out of.
Penn loaded the bases with one-out in the sixth after Enfield walked two batters and hit a batter.
The Kingsmen were once again denied from scoring, as Brendon Denaway hit a grounder to Enfield, who threw home for one out and catcher Hayden Nickell threw the ball to first to complete the double play.
"I was pitching to contact and let my defense do the work," said Enfield about his mindset during those stressful situations. "My coaches were telling me to pitch to contact."
Enfield finished with a two-hitter, struck out 12 and walked six.
Penn was unable to score despite having at least one baserunner in all but two innings.
"I just want to tip my hat to Enfield," Dikos said. "He pitched an excellent ball game. We were prepared for him. We've faced him several times. He still was able to rack up the strikeouts. (Northridge) just played better than us today.
"We live and die by the launch angles. As hard as I try to get it out of them there's just too many outside influences that have that swing ingrained in the head of some of our hitters. That's hurt more of my hitters than ever the last three or four years."
Penn pitcher Ryan Lynch also tossed a two-hitter and he struck out 10. Lynch didn't give up his first hit until the fifth inning. In that inning, Jamon Christner walked with one out for the Raiders and went to third on Drew Gayler's single. Cam Waters' squeeze bunt scored Christner from third and gave Northridge a 2-0 lead.
"Cam's our best bunter and we had a good runner on third base," Brabender said. "It worked out for us."
Northridge's first running in the first inning was unearned. Gayler walked to start the inning and was out at second on Waters' sacrifice bunt attempt. But Waters was standing at second base after a throwing error was committed on the play. After a groundout, Waters scored on a wild pitch to give the Raiders a 1-0 lead.
Northridge was able to gain some revenge over Penn, as the Kingsmen beat the Raiders, 11-10, in the sectional championship game last year.
"I think our kids came out and competed really well," Brabender said. "We've had really close games against them. I knew Davis (Enfield) would be good enough to keep us in the game. This is huge for our program."
NORTHRIDGE 2, PENN 0
Ryan Lynch (L, 10 K's); Davis Enfield (W, 12 K's), Cam Knepp (7, S).
Records: Penn 24-6, Northridge 22-7.