The dog pile started just after 8:40 p.m. inside Hoglund Ballpark. Senior shortstop Mitch Rogers flopped into a mob of jerseys. Senior Brandon Lee sprinted in from center field.
In the moments after the final out, the Blue Valley Tigers were a jumbled mess of arms, legs and torsos — sprawled out on the infield turf.
“I felt like I was flying,” said Lee, the last one into the fray.
More than a month ago, Blue Valley had stood just 6-6 after a shaky early-season stretch. Now the Tigers were state champions, the best 6A baseball team in Kansas after a 9-3 victory over Maize on Friday night.
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For Blue Valley, which clinched its fourth state baseball title in school history, this was a day for veteran bats and young arms. Rogers had snapped a 3-3 tie by smoking a two-run double down the left field line in the top of the sixth. Lee had broken the game wide open with a three-run triple in the seventh. And sophomore left-hander William Brennan cleared the way for the late offensive deluge after allowing three runs in five innings.
“Before the season, we knew were going to be one of the best teams in the state,” said Rogers, who finished two for five with three RBIs. “It was all dependent on what our attitude was like in practice, and our attitude every day on the field. We kind of took it for granted how much talent we had … then we finally put it in gear.”
The decisive blow came in the sixth, after Maize had rallied from a 3-0 deficit and tied the game entering the sixth. In an RBI opportunity, Rogers stepped to the plate.
“Coach (Tony Scardino) pulled me out of the box when they had the (mound visit),” Rogers said. “He told me that big games like this come down to a few big at-bats, and he said this could be one of them.”
Moments later, Rogers cracked a down-and-in fastball down the left-field line.
Earlier in the day, the Tigers had advanced to the title game on the shoulders of a complete-game performance from sophomore starter Tanner Fox. Blue Valley topped Wichita Northwest 4-1 in the semifinals, and Scardino felt comfortable sending Brennan, another sophomore, to the mound in the title game. Fox and Brennan, of course, will be back next year, as will junior Ryan Cyr, who closed out the game in the seventh.
But for seniors like Rogers, Lee, Caeden Harris, Chance Nelson and Rayn Robinson, this was a dream way to go out.
“The second half of the season, we just kept sticking with it,” Scardino said. “Every game was a dogfight, and our kids just kind of answered the bell.”