LONG SLIDE: Silver Creek shortstop Shae Durham tags Madison’s Xavier Barnes on the nose (above) to erase one of only three baserunners the Cubs had in the sectional semifinals on Saturday. Creek’s Nick Paynter slides across home plate (below) as the ball deflects off the glove of Madison catcher Tanner Sauley while the Cubs’ Clark Vaughn backs up the play. Madison lost 8-0. (Staff photos by David Campbell)
LONG SLIDE: Silver Creek shortstop Shae Durham tags Madison’s Xavier Barnes on the nose (above) to erase one of only three baserunners the Cubs had in the sectional semifinals on Saturday. Creek’s Nick Paynter slides across home plate (below) as the ball deflects off the glove of Madison catcher Tanner Sauley while the Cubs’ Clark Vaughn backs up the play. Madison lost 8-0. (Staff photos by David Campbell)
Silver Creek junior Cameron Cook faced one batter over the minimum and also hammered three doubles as the fourth-ranked Dragons pulled away late for an 8-0 win over Madison in the Class 3A Baseball Sectional semifinals Saturday at Gary O'Neal Field.

Cook gave up a hit to Tanner Sauley in the first inning and walked Xavier Barnes in the fourth. But Sauley was erased on a double play and Barnes was thrown out at second trying to steal on a missed bunt.

Not until Clark Vaughn was hit by a pitch and stranded there in the seventh inning did Madison leave a runner on base. But by that time, Cook and the Dragons were in complete control.

"When you get one-hit, three baserunners, you're not going to win too many games," Madison coach Shannon Barger said. "That's the way it goes. Silver Creek had their best going. It's always disappointing for your seniors. They have worked four years to do what they've done for our school and our community. For them to lose at home makes it tough."

Cook struck out 10 batters in his seven innings on the mound, five of which were looking. Sauley, who flew out to second in the seventh, was the only Cub to put the ball in the air and nothing Madison hit left the infield. Junior Derek Anderson, the team's clean-up hitter, tore his MCL in Wednesday's opening round, diminishing the Madison offense.

Despite Silver Creek's dominance, the Cubs were still in the game until the sixth. Carson Compton, who beat Silver Creek earlier in the season, allowed just two runs on six hits in five-plus innings and struck out five and walked none before the Dragons began to zero in on him late.

Silver Creek (22-7) scored its first run thanks to Madison mistakes. Brahan Whittinghill reached on an error and scored when Cook lifted a deep fly ball to left-field that turned into a double when Dalton Laufer couldn't run it down in time.

Shae Durham led off the fifth inning with a double and Cook followed with his second double to make it 2-0. Wanting to stop the Dragon rally cold, Barger then called on senior ace Clark Vaughn to relieve Compton.

But Vaughn, who pitched six innings in Wednesday's win over Brownstown Central, wasn't as sharp on Saturday. He struck out the first batter he faced but then walked Brooks Howell. Graham Jones and Logan Murphy followed with back-to-back singles to score two more runs and push the lead to 4-0.

The Dragons added four more runs off reliever Ethan Leach in the seventh for the final margin.

"(Compton) gave up one unearned run. They then got another run," Barger said. "We tried to stem it where it was because we weren't going to get more than two runs, that's for sure."

Cook went 3-for-4 with three doubles and three RBIs and Durham was 3-for-4 with two doubles, two runs and an RBI to lead the Dragons' 12-hit attack. Braydon Ware was 2-for-4 with a run and an RBI.

Silver Creek now heads to the championship game tonight where it will face Charlestown, a 5-1 winner over North Harrison in Saturday's other semifinal.

Madison now heads to the offseason where it will seek a way to end its sectional drought, which at five years is now the longest the program has endured since the early 1970s.

The Cubs finished the season with an 11-15 record but they won The Madison Courier Invitational Tournament and finished fourth in the Hoosier Hills Conference, one of the best baseball leagues in the state.

Now the focus is on taking the next step and winning the program's first sectional title since 2009.

"We always say our goals are to win the MCIT, win the HHC and win the sectional. Last year we didn't do any of those three," Barger said. "We were able to win the MCIT this year so that was one step we can build on. We won a game in the sectional which is one step above what we did last year.

"Most of it's mental. We've gotten to the point where we can compete but we can't be happy just to compete," Barger said. "It boils down to how hard do you want to work; how bad do you want to win that individual battle every time ... We've got the physical ability, we just need to get over that mental hump. We've got some kids that can play and some great kids come back."

The Cubs graduate seniors Max Devito, Laufer, Tyler Manaugh, Sam McIlvain, Kyle Sauley, Tanner Sauley and Vaughn and Barger said it will be hard to see the group leave.

"They're going to be huge successes. All seven of them are extremely intelligent and they're hard-working," Barger said. "They've done so much for this school and this program. Words can't explain what they've meant."