Olathe-based Heritage Christian Academy started its athletic programs three years ago, but only joined the Kansas State High School Activities Association this year.
Nobody associated with the Chargers really knew what to expect from the state playoffs, but baseball coach Bart Briley hoped for the best.
Despite two losing seasons before KSHSAA status -- 1-19 in 2011 and 10-13 in 2012 -- Briley decided to aim high and made reaching Kansas Class 2-1A state tournament the big goal for Heritage Christian.
Surprising even themselves, the Chargers achieved that goal Wednesday with a 6-5 extra-inning win against regional host Wabaunsee.
“Was it realistic?” Briley asked rhetorically. “Absolutely not. There are programs that have been around forever and ever, but never make it to state. For us to make it our first year is an amazing blessing.”
Entering the regional 11-3 overall, Heritage Christian drew the top seed and a first-round bye before topping Burlingame 7-2 in the semifinals behind senior Sam Huston’s complete-game gem and two RBIs from Mike Mitchell.
That set up a showdown with host Wabaunsee.
“Our slogan this year has been ‘one-pitch warriors,’ taking each game a pitch at a time, but that was hard against Wabaunsee,” Briley said. “We were the one seed, but they were hosting and had 300 people there. Every single, they cheered like they had won, so it was hard to focus.”
Heritage Christian coughed up a 4-3 lead in the top of the seventh, but managed to tie the game again in the bottom of the inning with a sacrifice fly by sophomore Noah Briley.
Working around errors with nobody out in the eighth and ninth, the Chargers eventually prevailed in nine innings and will get a taste of the state tourney beginning Thursday at Sodens Grove Baseball Field in Emporia.
“It was a blast,” Briley said. “As a coach, that’s what you live for, but the players said it was the most nerve-racking thing in their lives."
Huston delivered the game-winning run with a two-out single in the ninth, while sophomore Matt Fischer picked up the win by working three innings in relief.
Falcons, Ravens reach 6A state baseball tourney
Olathe South, which drew the second seed for its regional, reached the Class 6A state tournament for the second consecutive season Wednesday with a pair of hard-fought wins.
The Falcons, 16-5, got more of a battle than expected from No. 11 seed Gardner Edgerton, narrowly escaping with a 2-1 win in the regional semifinals.
Olathe South’s 5-2 win against Shawnee Mission East in the regional championship proved a little more comfortable.
The Lancers reached the final by knocking off Olathe North 5-2 during the other semifinal.
The Falcons drew the fifth seed for the state tournament, which begins Thursday at Hoglund Stadium on the University of Kansas campus in Lawrence.
Olathe South opens against No. 4 seed Manhattan, 16-5, at 1:30 p.m.
Olathe Northwest also reached state — and the fourth-seeded Ravens made it look easy.
Coach Rick Setter’s squad whipped Washburn Rural 9-2 in the regional semifinals before upsetting top-seeded Lawrence Free State 10-0 in the final.
The host Firebirds finished the season 18-4.
Olathe Northwest, 14-8, drew the No. 7 seed for the 6A state tourney and will face No. 2 seed BV West, 18-4, at 4 p.m. at Hoglund Stadium.
Playing in the SM West regional Wednesday at Johnson County 32, Olathe East gutted out a 6-4 win in 10 innings against the host Vikings.
However, the Hawks, 8-14, fell behind 7-0 against Blue Valley in the championship and couldn’t quite rally back in a season-ending 7-5 loss.
Hawks softball punches state ticket
Olathe East won its own softball regional Wednesday and reached state for the third straight season.
The Hawks, who have been to state 16 times in the last 18 seasons, romped past winless SM North in the regional semifinals 18-0 before pounding Gardner Edgerton into submission 8-0 for a berth in the Class 6A state field.
The Trailblazers previously had upset Olathe North 6-4 in the semifinals.
Olathe East, which also won its 14th Sunflower League championship since 1998, is the No. 2 seed for state, which begins Thursday at BV West.
The Hawks, 21-1, open against No. 7 seed BV Northwest at 3 p.m.
Regional host Olathe South had a streak of four consecutive state appearances snapped when SM Northwest knocked off the Falcons 7-2 in the regional final Tuesday at the Olathe District Activity Center.
Before that loss, third-seeded Olathe South had roughed up BV North 16-1 in the semifinals.
At the Lawrence Free State regional, third-seeded Olathe Northwest outlasted Lawrence 10-6 in the semifinals before falling 4-0 against the host Firebirds in the final.
Hawks golf reaches state
Olathe East finished second Monday during the Class 6A regional hosted by Lawrence at Alvamar Golf Club.
Central Missouri-bound senior Alex Springer led the way for the Hawks, who totaled 328 strokes and finished seven behind regional winner Lawrence Free State.
Springer won the individual golf with 76, while Zach Spencer won a three-way playoff for fifth after shooting 81.
Gardner Edgerton’s Jon Hughes also shot 81 and qualified for state as an individual.
Fourth-place Olathe Northwest came up five shots shy of qualifying for state as a team, but Nathan DeMars, who was ninth (82), Dillon Funk, who tied for 11th (84), and Matt Johnson, who tied for 16th (86), made the state field individually.
Meanwhile, Spring Hill’s Andrew Hartsock finished 10th in Class 4A regional play, which De Soto hosted at Shawnee Golf and Country Club. He missed qualifying for state by two strokes.