Gavin Jackson throws first no-hitter, Providence takes 2A crown

by | Jun 16, 2024 | Baseball, Headlines, RRSN News | 0 comments

Rich Torres, Special to IHSAA.org

INDIANAPOLIS – Providence’s Gavin Jackson took the mound for the bottom of the seventh inning on Saturday completely oblivious.

Astutely aware of his team’s nine-run lead over two-time defending Class 2A state champion Illiana Christian, all the sophomore knew with any certainty was he needed only three more outs to clinch the program’s third state title overall and first since 2021.

Everyone else in attendance knew the historical significance involved, however, and it rested in Jackson’s right hand during the 57th Annual IHSAA baseball state finals at Victory Field in downtown Indianapolis.

“We weren’t going to tell him. Obviously, us coaches knew the whole time. We were just looking and checking the scoreboard, but we weren’t going to say anything because it’s just the ultimate jinx if anybody does,” Providence head coach Tre’ Watson said. “Everybody was basically tight lipped.”

Jackson ran into some minor trouble to start the final frame with a leadoff walk issued and a one-out hit by pitch to put two runners on base, but his focus stayed fixated on sophomore catcher Lincoln Kruer’s mitt.

Two strikeouts looking later state finals history was cemented – and Providence’s 9-0 victory.

Jackson’s 10th and final strikeout of the game made him immortal, as both a Class 2A baseball state champion and the first player in finals’ history to throw a complete-game no-hitter.

Even when Kruer and sophomore first baseman Lucas Mauk tackled Jackson to the ground in the infield after his 96th and final pitch, he still didn’t realize.

It wasn’t until after he dusted himself off and climbed from the bottom of the Pioneers’ celebratory infield dogpile that the news reached him.

“Not until the end of the game. Lincoln told me I had the first no-hitter in state championship history,” Jackson admitted. “I was like, ‘What? That’s awesome.’”

Much like his stuff, Jackson’s performance and feat were unmatched.

Jackson retired the first seven Vikings he faced, only allowed two runners to reach scoring position and found a way to work around three walks and two hit batters to earn his seventh – and his most memorable – win of the season.

“Everything. Everything worked well. Fastball, curveball, change-up, everything worked well. Actually, I don’t throw a change-up,” Jackson playfully corrected with a laugh. “It’s a dream. I dreamed about playing on this field like every night, and it happened with a no-hitter. That’s awesome.”

His offense was equally as prolific against No. 10 Illiana Christian (21-11), which had won 19 consecutive state tournament games and were aiming to become the first 2A program and third different school to win three straight state titles.

The Pioneers (22-7) logged eight hits led by Kruer (2-for-3) and senior Jack Beyl (1-for-3), who drove in three runs, including a bases-loaded double in the top of the sixth that put Providence in control 6-0.

Sophomore Blake Straub finished 1-for-5, driving in another run with the bases loaded in the sixth off one of the Vikings’ four errors in the game.

Providence loaded the bases six times during their decisive – and 2A state finals record-tying – six-run sixth inning. The Pioneers sent 12 batters to the plate and tied the 2A state finals record for most runs scored in a single frame.

A leadoff triple by junior Cole Huett (1-for-1) to open the top of the first set the tone, and Beyl’s sacrifice fly in the proceeding at-bat to bring the first run home was all the support Jackson required.

“He was locked in from the start. From BP this morning, he was locked in,” Beyl said. “I realized it in the bottom of the sixth inning. I came over to (designated hitter) Connor Sad and said, ‘Dude, do you see what he’s doing right now?’ And he completed it. It’s crazy.”

Jackson’s no-hitter wasn’t without adversity.

A walk issued in the bottom of the third erased the perfect game attempt, and his first hit batter put two runners on base with one out. A looking strikeout and a catch by Beyl in center field ended the threat.

Jackson walked his second batter in the bottom of the fifth, but the same one-out, no-hit saving scenario repeated as Beyl hauled in the final out following a strikeout looking.

“It just shows with Gavin not knowing just how zoned in we were,” Watson said. “Consistently throughout the whole year, he was producing at the plate. Producing on the mound. He was producing at third and making plays. He’s just that kid.”

Jackson carried a 6-2 record and 2.59 ERA into the state finals as a second-year starter with 68 strikeouts, 24 walks and 19 earned runs in 51.1 innings pitched.

He didn’t have a single complete game this season prior to Saturday, but he was vital in oter ways, particularly during last weekend’s Plainfield Semi-State championship when he hit a walk-off single to beat Greencastle, 7-6, in nine innings.

“He had a huge transformation from his eighth-grade year to now. From his eighth-grade summer to his freshman year, he lost about 80 pounds. He just lives in the weight room,” Watson said. “He gets that extra work in. He takes care of his body, and he’s earned this. That right there, shows his work ethic, his composure and the kind of baseball player that he is and is going to be.”

Like his older brother Cody, who was on the team during Providence’s last state title run in 2021, Jackson became a champion while also setting the record books ablaze.

His 10 punchouts combined with 10 recorded by Illiana Christian’s trio of pitchers set a new 2A championship game record for total strikeouts. The previous record was 19, set in 2021 by Eastside and Providence.

“My brother (Cody) is here actually, supporting me. He’s always on me about getting better, and I just love it. It’s awesome,” Jackson said. “The coaches were here in 2016. Three of them, and they gave me great advice the whole game.”

Watson, a standout player on the 2016 team, also earned the game’s L.V. Phillips Mental Attitude Award and was an assistant coach with Providence in 2021 under former head coach Scott Hutchins.

Watson joined the Providence coaching staff and former head coach Scott Hornung in 2018 following a handful of knee surgeries and a hip operation, which ended his collegiate career.

“Providence baseball is basically my heart and soul. I have been here since 2012, and I really haven’t stopped other than for a year-and-a-half. As soon as I was done with college baseball (at Vincennes University), I came in because my father-in-law (Scott Hornung) was still coaching, and he let me kind of help coach and was here throughout the whole thing, so to have one at each position is special. It’s very heartfelt, and I feel really good about that,” Watson said.

The No. 2 Pioneers never felt they couldn’t get the job done.

Huett reached base five times and set a new 2A state finals record with three stolen bases. Providence’s six stolen bases as a group tied the 2A state finals record.

Their two-run top of the third put them ahead 3-0, and the rally was ignited by two Illiana Christian errors, a sacrifice fly to center by Kruer and a leadoff walk by Huett followed by a hit by pitch to put Beyl on base against Vikings’ left-handed starter Tanner Post.

Post went 5.1 innings with seven hits allowed, two walks, nine strikeouts and three hit batters.

“We prepared a lot for him. We prepared for his curveball. We jumped on that, especially Cole in the first inning. We capitalized on it,” Beyl said.

Post entered the game with a 4-1 record, a 2.60 ERA and 51 strikeouts in 37.2 innings.

“Our whole prep this week was don’t worry about the other team. We prepped for a lefty, but we didn’t talk about them much really other than that,” Watson said. “We weren’t going to worry about what they were going to do or how they were. We were just worrying about ourselves. And that’s what we did.”

Keeping quiet until the final out was an unwritten rule, especially once the Vikings threatened in the seventh.

“I walked the first two guys, and I got a little shaky, then I just locked it in. Threw all fastballs,” Jackson said. “Pound the zone.”

Sixty-one of Jackson’s pitches landed for strikes.

“In the seventh there, he started to get a little wild, and he was definitely tired, and he was losing some velo and he was missing some pitches. I thought about going out there and just kind of saying, ‘I just need two more outs.’ But he kind of honed in,” Watson said.

In the third inning, Watson paid a visit to the mound with two runners on base. By the end, Jackson knew all he needed to know.

“I was just getting a little amped up (in the third). I was a little shaky, you know, so he just told me to stay within myself and take a deep breath,” Jackson said.

His last exhale came as he threw his glove into the air, and the Clarksville faithful chanted his name.

“That’s awesome,” Jackson said. “We have great fans. Our fans are awesome.”

Class 2A State Championship Records

Most Runs in an Inning (tied): 6 by Providence (sixth inning)

Most Stolen Bases (tied): 6 by Providence

Most Combined Strikeouts Thrown: 20 by Providence (10) and Illiana Christian (10)

Most Stolen Bases: 3 by Cole Huett, Providence (also tied overall record)

Most Combined Strikeouts: 20 by Gavin Jackson (10) of Providence and Tanner Post (9), Gabe Soto (1) of Illiana Christian

Fewest Hits Allowed by a Pitcher (Complete Game): 0 by Gavin Jackson of Providence

Providence’s Luke Kruer named Mental Attitude recipient

Following the game, members of the IHSAA Executive Committee announced Luke Kruer of Providence High School as the recipient of this year’s L.V. Phillips Mental Attitude Award in Class 2A Baseball.

Luke recently graduated near the top of his senior class with a 3.7 GPA. He was a member of the National Honors Society, was in student government, was a Student Ambassador and was a founding member of the school’s Flying Club.

The starting right fielder was recently named to the Baseball Coaches Association South All-Star Team, second team all-area a year ago and was a freshman on Providence’s 2021 state championship team. Luke was also a four-year letter winner in football, served as team captain and was named All-State last fall.

Luke is the son of Brad and Kim Kruer of Sellersburg, Indiana and will attend the United States Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point, NY with the goal of serving his country as a commissioned officer and becoming a military pilot.

The L.V. Phillips Award is annually presented to an outstanding senior participant in each state championship game who has best demonstrated excellence in mental attitude, scholarship, leadership and athletic ability in baseball. The award is named in honor of the late L.V. Phillips, who served as the second commissioner of the IHSAA from 1945-62.

Indiana Farm Bureau Insurance, the IHSAA’s corporate partner, presented $1,000 to the general scholarship fund at Our Lady of Providence High School in the name of Luke Kruer.

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