The new kids on the block walked away with the top prize Friday.
Arkansas City, in its first year of Class 4A-Division I baseball after dropping down from 5A, did not allow a run until the 19th inning of state tournament play and played errorless ball throughout, capping the effort with a 11-1 six-inning victory over Bishop Miege in the championship game.
Junior catcher Brice Nittler spearheaded the title-game offensive, going 3 for 3 with a walk and driving in three runs, scoring two runs himself — the flip side from the semifinal, when he went hitless in three at-bats.
“I had to battle through (the semifinal) and had a good day,” he said.
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Meanwhile, senior Andrew Brautman held the Stags (14-11) hitless until the fifth, but that was when Bulldogs coach Aaron Bucher swapped shortstop Cade Gonzales for Brautman with one out, two on and the bases loaded. After a single by David Robinson loaded the bases, Gonzales induced Carter Putz to ground into a double play that was started by … Brautman, which ended the inning.
Leading 9-1 going into the bottom of the sixth, the Bulldogs (21-4) tacked on the necessary two runs to trigger the run rule. Ark City began the game with a five-run first on just three hits but also benefited from three walks by Miege starter Sam Jones.
Ark City achieved the title game by gritting out a nine-inning 1-0 victory over Andover Central — a team it went 1-1 against during the regular season. Senior Hunter O’Toole pitched eight innings of two-hit ball — including perfect innings through the first six — and scored the game’s only run on Gonzales’ RBI single.
“Pitching has been the cornerstone of our team all season,” Bucher said. “We got out on them early and just kind of rode it out.”
Bucher, who also is the Bulldogs’ athletic director, said moving down in class is just something his school had to accept.
“Part of that is we had a small freshman class, but we’ve been duking it out in 5A for a long time,” he said. “We’ve been really close. This group of seniors, we’ve been together since they were in eighth grade, and it’s been a building process, and it’s nice to see the final product.”
Bucher, who said he thinks Ark City might return to 5A next year, said the competition in AVCTL Division II is tough.
“Our league is a meat grinder,” he said. “Division II baseball is no slouch, with Maize South, the two Andovers and the two Goddards, and then you’ve got to cross over and play Campus, we’ve played a lot of good teams.”
Andover Central 2, Tonganoxie 0: After a grueling semifinal, the Jaguars (18-7) scraped together enough to capture the consolation trophy.
Neither team mounted much offense. Andover Central had four hits to Tonganoxie’s two.
About the only suspense in the game came in the top of the sixth inning, when Tonganoxie (6-18) had the tying runs in scoring position with two out. But sophomore right-hander Trey DeGarmo induced Austin Fisher to pop up, which DeGarmo grabbed to quash the threat.
“That was big to take the pressure off of us for the rest of the game and keep us going,” DeGarmo said.
The Jaguars scored their first run on a walk, an error and a sacrifice fly. Clark Schoonover’s single in the fourth scored Stratton Stamp with a valuable insurance run.
Andover Central coach Grant Bacon said the 86-degree heat and having to turn around quickly definitely had an effect.
“Only two teams get to leave with wins (in championship play),” he said. “DeGarmo pitched well, we got some good defense. … DeGarmo, the next couple of years he’s going to be one of ‘our guys.’ The (underclassmen) are going to have to step up for this next year. We’re losing some good dudes.”