All Liberal’s Nick Brooks focused on was getting at hit when he stepped to the plate in the top of the ninth inning Thursday night, facing a one-run deficit in an elimination quarterfinals game in the NBC World Series at Lawrence-Dumont Stadium.
Once he connected with the fastball, right down the center of the plate, he knew he had a grand slam over the center field fence. It was good enough to give Liberal an 8-5 win over the El Dorado Broncos and advance to Friday’s semifinals to play Haysville.
But that’s when the emotion took over. It was emotion that didn’t have anything to do with the grand slam or the win.
Brooks’ thoughts turned toward Kaiser Carlile, the Bee Jays’ bat boy who died Sunday after being struck in the head with a follow-through swing near the on-deck circle on Saturday afternoon during the Bee Jays’ game.
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“The first one I greet at the plate is Kaiser.… First person I would have greeted at the plate would have been Kaiser,” Brooks said.
Brooks attended Monday’s news conference following Kaiser’s death, but chose not to talk. He was often overwhelmed with emotion as his teammates told their favorite stories of the 9-year-old bat boy.
“I wanted to talk, but I got there … I knew I wouldn’t be able to get anything out. I knew there was too much going on in my head,” Brooks said.
The Bee Jays’ time in the World Series has been emotionally charged since Sunday.
El Dorado had a 4-0 lead after two innings. It was a scoring spurt that included a leadoff home run by Elijah Christenson in the second inning.
El Dorado squandered a chance in the third with the bases loaded, but still led 5-1 after four innings when Matt Holcombe singled in Dalton Wheat.
But that’s when Liberal pitcher Will Olds took over. He shut down the Broncos after entering with one out in the fourth.
Although El Dorado’s Cameron Knight reached first after getting hit, Olds induced a double play to end the inning — and then struck out six of the next seven batters he faced.
Olds faced 16 batters through the eighth inning, and got out 14.
The Bee Jays’ offense responded with two runs in the sixth by Madison Foster and Brent Williams to pull within 5-3.
Shortstop Luke Sherley drew a one-out walk in the top of the ninth and scored on a bases-loaded walk by Brent Williams to get Liberal within one.
And then Brooks took over.
8 8 1
5 14 0
W — Olds. L — Witherspoon. S — Kuhnel. HR — Liberal, Brooks; El Dorado, Christenson.
Liberal batting: Wehby 0-2, Foster 1-2, Rowe 0-0, Williams 1-4, Brooks 3-4, Cox 0-5, Miller 0-5, Green 1-3, Hubbard 1-4, Sherley 1-2.
El Dorado batting: Dalrymple 1-4, Wheat 2-4, Hanna 0-4, Holcombe 2-4, Bamesberger 0-0, Knight 2-4, Kjolsing 1-4, Christenson 2-4, Ware 3-4, Wodtke 1-4.
Liberal pitching: Vassar 1 1/3 IP-3 ER, Whitfield 2-1, Olds 4 2/3-0, Kuhnel 1-0.
El Dorado pitching: Hicks 5 1/3 IP-3 ER, Feige 1 1/3-0, Cannady 1 1/3-0, Witherspoon 2/3-1, Thomas 2/3-1.
NBC World Series
When: One game at 7 p.m. - Liberal vs. Haysville
Where: Lawrence-Dumont Stadium