Will Finch was in the middle of a postgame interview when two of his Summit Christian Academy teammates snuck up on him with a giant water jug and gave him a Royals-like “Salvy Splash.”
He had certainly earned a cool down, and some major-league treatment, on a hot and windy afternoon.
Finch, SCA’s senior left-hander, had just finished an utterly dominating performance against Holden, a two-hit, 13-strikeout gem that gave SCA a 3-1 victory and the Class 3 District 14 title Tuesday at SCA. Finch gave up just two walks, and only run Holden managed was unearned.
“With the exception of a little blunder we had defensively, he wouldn’t have given up a run,” SCA coach John Gage said. “His control was better today than it has been. He stepped up for us today, that’s all you can say.”
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Finch has been SCA’s ace the last two seasons, and the only blemish on his 9-1 record last year came in the Class 3 state championship game. Gage sees that driving him during this postseason. It could also explain a focused approach that Finch said had a lot to do with his effectiveness Tuesday.
“I think it was pregame preparation, getting my mind in check,” Finch said. “I thought if I got my mind in check before the game my body would follow. I was ready to throw strikes and I think that’s why I was successful.”
Finch struck out the side to start the game, and he fanned the first two Holden batters he faced in the second inning before nicking Dakota Kilgore with a pitch. Nathan Hedglin, Holden’s starting pitcher, followed with a single, and Kilgore came around to score on a fly ball by Nolan Brown that popped off the glove of SCA’s right fielder.
The run forged a 1-1 tie shortly after SCA took the lead on doubles by Luke Moehle and Matthew McWilliams in the first. McWilliams, who drove in all three SCA runs, put the Eagles back up in the third with a two-run double that scored Eli Rash and Finch.
SCA had four hits in the third, and they were the last hits the Eagles would manage off Hedglin. The Eagles had only four base runners the rest of the game as they struggled against the right-hander’s curveball.
“We hadn’t seen a whole lot of curveballs this season,” Finch said. “It’s something we’re going to see more in the postseason, so we’ve got to step up our game and work on that.”
Finch proved just as dominant despite working with a slim lead. Holden threatened in the fifth when Brown hit a leadoff double and reached third and Riley Beavers drew a two-out walk, but Finch coaxed a fly ball to get out of the jam and retired the last seven he faced.
“It made it a little more nerve-racking for me, but I trust in my offense,” Finch said. “I had this two-run lead coming into the end of the game, and I was confident I could hold them.”
Finch did hold them, and SCA, 20-4, made another step toward returning to state with its third-straight district title. The Eagles will face District 13 champion Knob Noster, 18-5, in a sectional game 4 p.m. Monday at Knob Noster.
“We came and survived today, so now we just wait,” Gage said. “We’ve got a couple of practice days to prepare for next Monday.”