De Soto exploded for seven runs in the fifth inning on the way to a win over Paola on Friday in the Kansas Class 4A Division I championship game at Dean Evans Stadium, giving the Wildcats their first baseball title in school history.
“That’s for our 11 seniors, the most unselfish group of kids I have ever been around in my life,” De Soto coach Joel Thaemert said. “They were so selfless and committed to this goal of winning a state championship. It was always all about the team.”
De Soto struck early on a two-run triple from second baseman Greyson Jenista in the first inning, but Paola answered with two runs of its own in the second and took a 5-3 lead in the fifth before the Wildcats’ onslaught started.
“I don’t think we were worried or nervous or anything like that,” De Soto first baseman Dylan Holden said. “We have a lot invested in the team, in each other, that we knew when we got in a situation like that we’d be OK. We knew we’d pull through.”
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Maxwell Taulbee led De Soto with three RBIs, with Jenista and Devon Freeman each chipping in with two. John Mayes was the winning pitcher, with Seth Slayman taking the loss for Paola.
Clayton Hancock came on and pitched two scoreless innings of relief for De Soto, including the seventh, when he got Slayman to fly out to left field for the final out, triggering a wild dogpile next to the mound.
Several of the Wildcats got emotional when they gathered for team pictures, holding up a No. 12 jersey to honor former teammate Alan Maxville. Maxville died in August 2012 and would’ve been a senior this season.
“He was one of us, he was someone we grew up with. … I wish he could’ve been here today, so the jersey is our way to honor him,” Holden said, fighting back tears. “I guess I like to think he was looking over us today.”