Varsity Baseball

Carroll brings the fire and ice in state quarterfinal

Highlights: Carroll pair delivers to get Eagles to 5A baseball semifinal

Senior outfielder RJ Lara drove in both runs in Carroll's 2-0 win against Mill Valley on Thursday while junior pitcher Brady Bockover threw a four-hit shutout. The Eagles will play City League foe Heights in the 5A state semifinals.
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Senior outfielder RJ Lara drove in both runs in Carroll's 2-0 win against Mill Valley on Thursday while junior pitcher Brady Bockover threw a four-hit shutout. The Eagles will play City League foe Heights in the 5A state semifinals.

The only time Brady Bockover froze up on Thursday night was during his postgame interview.

Bockover couldn't find the words and declined to talk after the game, but that didn't matter. His pitching said everything he needed to in Carroll's 2-0 win against Mill Valley in the Class 5A state quarterfinals.

He threw a four-hit shutout against a stout Jaguar group, getting through seven innings in an hour and a half on just 90 pitches. His teammate, senior outfielder RJ Lara said Bockover was amazing.

"Brady just shoved it," Lara said. "When a guy is pitching like that, there's not much you can do. We just had to play defense behind him, and if you can get one or two runs, that's game."

Lara was almost as impressive. He drove in both of Carroll's runs, including one from an off-the-wall double to right field. He has now delivered in back-to-back state playoff games.

Last time Carroll fans saw Lara on the diamond, he smashed a walk-off against Valley Center to capture the regional championship and send the Golden Eagles to state.

"I'm feeling good," Lara said. "Every time I step up to the plate, I'm just thinking, 'What's my job? What do I need to do?' "

The combination of Bockover and Lara was working wonders Thursday night, something coach Charlie Ebright envisioned before the season.

Bockover was solid last season as a sophomore, but he wasn't this good. He is 6-1 this season and came into the quarterfinals with a 0.59 ERA in nine appearances this season. He has a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 4.5:1 and has allowed three earned runs all season.

And baseball isn't even his first sport.

Bockover finished as the Class 5A runner-up in the 197-pound weight class for the Carroll wrestling team Feb. 24. The wrestler he lost to in the final, Newton's Wyatt Hendrickson, has committed to compete at the Air Force Academy after his graduation. He is one of Kansas' best.

The Mill Valley student section made sure Bockover remembered that pin loss by chanting Hendrickson's name in the final inning. Bockover, like he had been all night, was ice. He fielded the final out to secure the shutout.

"I got this thing about wrestlers," Ebright said. "Wrestlers have an air of confidence that few other human beings have. They put it all on the line, mano a mano against other human beings, and I think that's where Brady gets his confidence.

"I saw it the first time he threw for us as a sophomore down at Derby, and it was like he had another gear."

Carroll should be in an equally confident spot heading into its semifinal game against Heights at 1:15 p.m. on Friday in Eck Stadium.

Heights had to use its No. 1 and 2 pitchers to get past Maize in a 12-inning 1-0 win. After the game, Falcons coach Jeff Topping said he and his guys were "physically and emotionally spent."

Having made quick work of Mill Valley, the Eagles will come in rested and confident, Ebright said.

"We've got five pitchers left that I got a lot of confidence in," he said. "So if we go out and do what we did tonight — quality at-bats, flawless defense and good pitching — we got a good chance to bring it home."

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