Arabians take back Nick Muller crown

May 10—ALEXANDRIA — After a four-year absence, the Nick Muller Madison County Tournament championship trophy is heading back to a case at Pendleton Heights.

The Arabians retrieved the hardware by doing what so many previous Muller champs had done. They pitched well, and they took advantage of opportunities.

The dominant pitching of tournament Most Valuable Player Brayden Stevenson and a six-run third inning were more than enough for the Arabians to end the longest title drought for the program in the 24-year history of the tournament as PH handed Alexandria a 10-1 defeat Friday night at Tiger Field.

It was the 10th overall title for the Arabians and the first for coach Matt Vosburgh, who joins former PH coaches Travis Keesling (five) and Bill Stoudt (four) as championship leaders.

"We want to win every game," Vosburgh said. "This was one of those things. It was like a monkey on my back, and now I've got it off. We've been handled a couple times, but it was good to come out this year and handle our business."

It was an important goal for this Arabians' team.

PH (15-7) last won the title in 2019, and after the tournament was cancelled due to COVID in 2020, the Arabians watched Madison-Grant (once) and Lapel (twice) celebrate championships.

"Our biggest thing is to set the standard, be relentless and never be satisfied," Stevenson said. "This is a small step in our bigger picture. It's one of the goals we wanted, and reaching this goal is one of the greatest things we could do."

"It means a little more because it's county," Vosburgh said. "We're always going to get everyone's best game. Whether we play Lapel or we play Alex, they're going to put their best guys out there.

"To be able to beat everyone in the county when they're playing their best, that means a lot to us."

Stevenson set the tone early for the Arabians.

He struck out the first six batters and had eight punchouts through the first three frames.

"He's really come along and started to invest himself in pitching," Vosburgh said. "We know he's going to be a big part of our rotation the rest of this year and into next season."

He got all the run support he needed when Alexandria (14-8) provided great assistance in helping the Arabians bat around in the third inning.

No. 9 batter Colin Axel-Adams led off the inning against Kaed Abshire with a triple to deep right field. In a harbinger of things to come, Axel-Adams scampered home on a throwing error.

Ty Frakes doubled to right and moved up to third on a single by Mazon Saxon. Frakes scored on a grounder by Jordan Williamson, but the throw from third was off target, allowing Williamson to reach safely. After a walk to Clint Miller loaded the bases, Saxon and Williamson scored on another throwing error. Rylan Keesling capped the six-run frame with an RBI single.

It was a frustrating inning for Alexandria coach Jeff Closser, who was denied his second career Muller title.

"I was just surprised," Closser said. "If we don't make those errors, it was pretty close really."

The big inning also helped Stevenson relax a bit, even though the Ball State commit showed few nerves early on.

"It takes the weight off my shoulders and lets me pitch my game with that insurance," he said. "It makes me trust my defense more, knowing that I don't have to try to blow it past every batter."

The Tigers did break through against the PH junior when Abshire walked in the fourth and scored on a Trevor Martin grounder.

But that was all the offense Alexandria could muster. Stevenson departed with two outs in the sixth after allowing just one run on three hits and striking out a dozen. Stevenson also threw four no-hit innings against Anderson earlier in the tournament with 10 strikeouts to help the Arabians reach the final and ultimately claim the crown.

"That's a great thing, honestly," Stevenson said of the MVP honor. "I love being awarded with something, so that's a great feeling."

The Arabians added insurance late on an RBI grounder by Keesling in the fifth and an RBI single by Miller as part of a three-run sixth.

For the game, Alexandria committed five errors, and only two of the seven runs surrendered by Abshire were earned.

The championship game was postponed when weather wreaked havoc on Madison County tournament week in early April.

Now both teams will look to build off Friday's outcome with an eye on the postseason, little more than a week away.

"We're going to give them the weekend off to recharge then we'll get back after it next week," Closser said. "Not much else to say about today."

"We've really got to renew our focus and be playing our best baseball in this final week leading up to sectional," Vosburgh said. "To come out in a game that if you're not ready we won't win, and Alex is a good team."

Contact Rob Hunt at or 765-640-4886.