Heights, Maize play to 12-inning pitcher’s duel in state quarterfinal
Jordan Ellison threw a seven-inning no-hitter and didn't earn the win.
Ellison got a no-decision on Thursday, but Heights is moving on to the Class 5A semifinals after a 12-inning 1-0 victory against defending state champion Maize.
Ellison, the reigning 5A Player of the Year, didn't have an explanation for the drama.
"Just baseball," he said.
Heights won on a walk-off in the 12th inning. Junior Tanner Day delivered a hit through the left side of the infield, and his teammates swarmed him.
Day was on the junior-varsity team last season. Thursday was his first state playoff game.
"It's like we just won the world series," he said. "But we got another game, so we gotta go get 'em and go get a ring."
Day hit sixth in the lineup against Maize. He came in with the sixth-best batting average on the team and the sixth-most RBIs.
None of those stats matter. Ellison and senior Houston McFarlane said Day was who he wanted at the plate, not even themselves. Day has proved himself worthy.
"He stepped up this year," McFarlane said. "Big time. Big time. He has made a big difference."
Day, Ellison and the Falcons will be remembered, but Maize was equally impressive. Junior starting pitcher Adrian Perez threw nine three-hit, scoreless innings. He struck out four and had two walks.
Perez threw 89 pitches. More than 66 percent of them were strikes.
"He was awesome," Maize coach Rocky Helm said. "He worked ahead. He's a student of the game, and he has gotten better all year long. Thank goodness he's coming back one more year for us."
Before the season started, Helm named Perez as one of the Eagles' "inexperienced" players who needed to contribute for the team to have success. Helm said that happened.
Perez was 6-0 coming into Thursday's quarterfinal. He became Maize's ace with a 2.14 ERA and four complete games. He didn't make it five, but he showed his grit.
"He grew up, matured and became a leader for us," Helm said. "I really figured out he wants the ball when it's his turn, so that's huge for us."
Ellison and Perez were just half of the pitchers who shined at Eck Stadium. Heights' Andrew Kealey came in for the eighth and went five scoreless with two hits and four strikeouts. Maize's Gage Kennedy entered in the 10th and, though the Falcons' run was given to him, he went two innings with only two hits.
Both teams' defenses were outstanding. Heights had a runner at third twice in extra innings. First in the ninth, Perez got McFarlane to ground into an inning-ending double play that middle infielders Camden Jurgensen and Jordan Helm executed to perfection.
Two innings later, Heights had runners at second and third, and Falcon senior Byrce Boomsma drilled a laser to Carson Shively at third.
Shively flashed his glove across his body, caught it and stepped on third for another inning-ending double play.
Heights coach Jeff Topping said it was just a special game to be part of.
"Our guys just battled and battled and battled," he said. "We had some tough breaks and persevered. I'm just so proud that they can come back for day 2. Anything can happen on championship Friday."
Maize's season ends at 14-9. The Eagles will not repeat as 5A state champions, but they are young. They will be back.
For Heights, a date with the winner of Carroll-Mill Valley awaits at 1:15 p.m. Friday at Wichita State's Eck Stadium. Topping said he and his guys will rest every second they can spare.
"We're spent mentally," he said. "I didn't even play in the game, and I'm spent. I'm sure my guys are, too, but we're going to go back, hydrate, meet in the morning and come back to work."