Brady Bockover stared down catcher Aidan Niedens for about five seconds before he broke.
Bockover called Niedens to the mound for a quick chat. With Bockover’s next pitch, he struck out his final batter, and Niedens fired a pellet to second to catch a stealing runner for a double play that sealed a sweep over Wichita West, an undefeated 2019 regular season and a City League baseball title.
Bockover was an All-Metro selection last year after posting a 0.59 ERA. He has watched from the dugout most of his senior season, recovering from a rib injury sustained during the state wrestling tournament. But even still, Carroll finished the regular season with the lowest average runs allowed, 1.32, of any team in Kansas.
And now the Golden Eagles will head into the postseason without a loss and with their ace.
“He’s just a bulldog,” Ebright said. “He was our team MVP last year. He put the team on his shoulders and carried us. He’s just that guy.”
Coach Charlie Ebright has been at Carroll for 21 years. He said in that time, he has never had a team go undefeated in the regular season.
“I’ve had great years, but it’s really about getting them to play to the best of their ability and to stay in it and stay focused and execute,” he said.
The City League was a bit down this year. Outside of Carroll, City League teams went 56-91. Outside of league play, the other eight teams were 6-24. Only one of those non-league wins was against a state title contender, when Northwest beat Goddard. But the Golden Eagles, particularly on the mound, have shown worthy of their No. 1 seed in Class 5A West.
Carroll has thrown 11 scoreless or one-run games. The Eagles swept Maize and beat the City League’s top two contenders, Northwest and West, by an average of 3.75 runs a game.
No team scored more than four runs throughout the regular season.
“Jack (Ebright) and Jorey (Faber) have really carried the load lately,” Ebright said. “Adam Birch has come in and really filled a role for us, and some of our position guys have been throwing.”
Ebright said he isn’t used to pulling a player from third base and putting him on the mound, normally sticking with designated pitchers, but when Bockover was out, he gave it a shot. Seniors Carsen Pracht and Jesse Peoples have been among those to shine in the rare opportunity.
Carroll can swing it, too. The Golden Eagles, while posting the state’s top defense, also has the No. 2 offense in Kansas’ top three classifications at 11 runs per game. Only Trinity Academy at 11.31 is higher. Carroll was held under five runs once, and it came in the season finale, a 4-3 win over West.
The Eagles have 13 seniors on the roster, and Bockover said all of them have been playing together since they were in kindergarten. They are all part of the same friend group, too, so the chemistry is as good as it gets, he said.
“We just love it,” Bockover said. “That’s why we give it our all.”
Although Carroll has earned its No. 1 spot, the Eagles will likely face one of the Wichita area’s top teams if they reach the regional championship game. As of Tuesday afternoon, No. 8 Maize South and No. 9 Andover would play in the first round of Carroll’s regional.
The Mavericks swept Andover by 11 combined runs April 30 and won the Class 4A-Division I state championship two years ago. They have wins over Lawrence, Arkansas City and Wichita West among others.
Jack Ebright said while Carroll respects its opponents, he knows the Eagles are dangerous.
“If we keep playing ball like we have and lessen our mistakes, we are going to be pretty unstoppable,” he said.