Campus senior pitcher Alec Meier didn't have time to react or even brace for impact.
After he struck out Dodge City center fielder Nick Brady to seal his team's 4-2 win over Dodge City in its regional championship game, Meier was leveled by Campus' tallest, heaviest player Colton Flax. The tackle left both of them vulnerable to the massive dog pile that ensued.
Sure, Meier may have been a little stunned and short of breath after being pulled from the pile, but this was a good type of pain. His complete game sent Campus to its first Class 6A tournament in school history and its first state tournament since 2004 (Class 5A).
So he'll forgive Flax, for now.
"He hit me pretty hard," Meier said. "He told me that if I shut it down that he was going to tackle me, but I didn't know it was going to be like that. I couldn't breathe, but I didn't care. It was the best feeling in the world going to the state tournament my senior year."
Flax couldn't contain his excitement. He threw a shutout against South to get the Colts into the championship game, and was elated that his teammate went the distance for the win.
"Oh yeah. My first instinct was to tackle him," Flax said. "It has been a really long time since we've been to the state tournament, and we've been talking about it for a while. We finally got through."
Meier threw 115 pitches in the 4-2 win and didn't even think about asking to be pulled out. Campus lost its regional championship game last season by one run. The Colts' senior ace wanted to personally make sure that didn't happen again.
"His pitch count was way up there, but this late in the year I kind of throw pitch counts out of the window," Campus coach Bryan Clasen said. "You can tell by the way the kids compete (if they want to stay in), and he competed very well tonight. We were sticking with him no matter what. He's earned the right to win or lose that game."
Meier improved to 6-3 and picked up his 19th career win at Campus, a school record. He got support in the second after Tyler Tilley scored Taylor Schrader and Flax from first and third on a two-run double to deep left field. Campus (18-4) went up 2-0. Colts center fielder Justin Burba got a RBI in the third to give his team a 3-0 lead.
Meier got in trouble in fifth inning, giving up two runs off of one hit, one error and a base on balls, but he recovered in the sixth and seventh to pitch two scoreless innings. He knew he had to show composure to take his team to the next level.
"It was great," Flax said. "We always have confidence in Alec Meier. That win put him first on the all-time wins list at Campus. We knew that he was going to come through."
Dodge City (11-11) handled East in a 20-8 victory to get to the regional championship game. The Aces entered the game 15-5, but had split its series with Dodge City 1-1 in the regular season. The Demons pummeled East pitchers for an eight-run second inning to take a commanding lead.
Dodge City 20, East 8
Dodge City080 038 1 — 20 18 1 East210 050 0 —8 16 5
Campus 13, South 0
South000 00X X — 0 4 0 Campus900 4XX X —13 11 0
Campus 4, Dodge City 2
Dodge City000 020 0 —2 5 1 Campus021 010 0 —4 7 0