EVANSVILLE, Ind. “Jarred Howard couldn’t stand seeing his team like this.

The heads were tucked inside the jerseys. Virtually every player shed tears. These kinds of things tend to happen at the end of your season.

But the Forest Park baseball coach didn’t want their focus on a 5-4 loss to Linton-Stockton in the Class 2A Regional Championship, the Miners’ first regional title. He wanted them to look at the bigger picture.

It was truly a historic season at Ferdinand.

“I’m so proud of these guys. They’ve done a lot for our program,” Howard said. “First section in 20 years. Conference champions. They’ve had a great season. They’re good kids.”

It was a crazy day at Bosse Field for the Rangers. The championship game had a lot of twists and turns. Forest Park took a 3-0 lead in the first inning after hits from Drew Howard, Clayton Weisheit and Joel Bueltel. But the Miners tied the game at 3-3 in the next inning.

Forest Park retook the lead on a brace over the head from center fielder Reid Howard in the fourth. But again, Linton-Stockton responded. Jaydan Miller drove in the tying run on a hard-hit single in the fifth.

The dagger came with two outs in the sixth. Japhet House hit a ball down the right field line and threw what turned out to be the winning run.

“We didn’t get a few hits when we needed them and we ran out of innings,” Howard said. “There were a few innings where we had two outs because of one thing or another.”

Even with a few errors from the Forest Park side – Rangers had a few double plays on flyouts – he had a chance to send the game into extra innings. This brought the potentially winning run to home plate in the bottom of the seventh.

Forest Park's Drew Howard (12) aims for a ground ball as Forest Park Rangers take on the North Posey Vikings on Tuesday evening May 11, 2021.

This fight was a staple of the Forest Park season. That’s what got them to this point. This helped them overcome a four-point deficit in the first section game against Mater Dei. That allowed them to overcome a wild and wacky 9-6 regional semi-final against Providence in eight sets earlier on Saturday.

It was something that made Howard proud all year.

“That’s the reason we were even in the regional championship game,” Howard said. “It’s just the kind of team they are, fighting until the end. We just couldn’t do it tonight.”

Forest Park has a lot to remember from this spring. His first section championship in more than 20 years. An 11-1 record in the Pocket Athletic Conference and an all-time conference title. A top-10 ranking in the Indiana Baseball Coaches Association’s 2A poll for virtually the entire season.

The Rangers graduated three seniors who each had important roles. Brody Klem was an everyday starter in center field. Landon Nalley was the main backstop for Rangers. And, of course, Drew Howard will leave the program as one of the most impressive players to ever play for Forest Park.

“They always stayed true. The most important thing is that you always have to put your head down and attack. Then good things will happen to you,” Howard said of the three seniors. “I’m proud of them.”

Clayton Weisheit (18) of Forest Park throws as Forest Park Rangers take on North Posey Vikings on Tuesday evening May 11, 2021.

Although it was difficult for Forest Park to look to the future immediately after a tough defeat, Rangers should be delighted with the talent that will return next season. Clayton Weisheit was among the best pitchers in the area. Reid Howard has impressed at home plate, especially in the playoffs. Joel Bueltel was a daily threat with his striking.

Forest Park will have the opportunity to make some noise again next year. Despite failing to win their first regional title since 1976, Rangers have proven they are a program to watch.

“It’s never easy to take a loss like this, but we’ll think about it for a day or two and then get back to work this summer,” Howard said. “These guys will pull through after the offseason and be ready for next year. They work hard.”

Contact Courier & Press sports reporter Hendrix Magley by email at [email protected] or via Twitter @TweetsOfHendrix.