LAWRENCE – After a slight pause to regain his composure, Maize baseball coach Rocky Helm summed up his team’s 9-3 loss to Blue Valley in the Class 6A championship game Friday night by reminiscing as to just how far they had come.
“It’s just a group of guys who have been together for a long time,” Helm said. “I’ve seen them grow since they were 9 years old. I’m sure they hate seeing it come to an end, but when they think about everything they did in the long run, I think they will cherish this moment.
“Right now it’s tough, because they mean so much to each other.”
What else could he say?
All tournament long, his team fought back from adversity. They made it known that they were going to win on grit and determination.
It looked as if the Eagles were going to do that again as they fought back from a 3-0 deficit to tie the game in the fifth inning at Hoglund Ballpark.
That was impressive, considering the Eagles couldn’t muster any offense through the first four innings.
“I think we may have gotten caught in the moment a little bit early on,” Helm said. “We might have realized what we were playing for.”
The Eagles’ ammo all season had been great pitching and methodical, grinding offense. Neither seemed to work Friday night.
Blue Valley just had too much thump.
Leadoff man Brandon Lee went 2 for 4 with four RBIs and Mitchell Rogers went 2 for 4 with three RBIs.
“We just got the big hits late,” Blue Valley coach Tony Scardino said. “Every game was a dogfight and our kids just answered the bell.”
While the Tigers’ offense was impressive, Maize ran out of gas on the mound, too. The Eagles changed pitchers five times against Blue Valley and also two more times in their semifinal win over Manhattan.
“Playing three games in two days, you throw everybody you can,” Brady Hoover said. “I’m not dogging on our pitchers that came in, but it was definitely hard for them.”
In their three-run fifth inning, the Eagles got RBI hits from Jacob Miller and Hoover.
“Our team picked me, like I wanted them to do,” said Troll, who was Maize’s starting pitcher. “We answered them, but unfortunately, they answered us, too.”
The Tigers scored two runs in the sixth off a two-run double by Rogers that was preceded by walks by Lee and Tanner Fox.
Lee ended all doubt in the seventh when he hit a bases-loaded triple.
“I knew we couldn’t make any mistakes,” Helm said. “Unfortunately, I think the better team won.”
The Grizzlies were more aggressive in the third place game against Manhattan, but the result was the same. Northwest stranded nine baserunners in its 3-1 loss to Manhattan.
“We had the mindset in this game to come out and be aggressive early,” Lambert said. “We hit balls hard, but we hit them right to people.”
Manhattan jumped on Northwest starter Jordan Dingman early, with two hits and a run in the first. Jacob Biller’s RBI triple gave the Indians the 1-0 lead.
Then in the second, Manhattan opened the inning with a walk, a single and an error and scored its second run on a fielder’s choice.
Northwest managed two baserunners, yet no hits in the first two innings. Twice in the first four innings, the Grizzlies had a runner on third base, but were unable to capitalize.
Northwest had two on and nobody out in the sixth, but again came away without runs.
“We left too many guys on base,” Lambert said. “All we needed was a big base hit, but it seemed like their defense was a magnet. Everywhere we hit it, they were there.”
Blue Valley 9, Maize 3
|Blue Valley||210||002||4||—||9 9 0|
|Maize||000||030||0||—||3 4 2|
W – Johnson. L – Hoover.
Manhattan 3, Northwest 1
|Northwest||000||000||1||—||1 5 0|
|Manhattan||110||100||x||—||3 4 2|
W – Fabrizius. L – Dingman.
Blue Valley 4, Northwest 1
|Northwest||000||001||0||—||1 6 1|
|Blue Valley||020||011||x||—||4 7 0|
W – Fox. L –Clark. HR – Northwest, Dingman.
Maize 3, Manhattan 1
|Maize||011||100||0||—||3 6 0|
|Manhattan||100||000||0||—||1 5 1|
W – Lungwitz. L – DeNoble.