A year and one week ago, Bishop Carroll was in almost the same spot and had the same result.
In last year’s regional championship game, the Golden Eagles trailed Valley Center in their Class 5A regional championship game, but then-senior RJ Lara hit a walkoff single to earn their spot in the state tournament.
Thursday at Wichita State’s Eck Stadium, Carroll gave up a game-tying run to Salina South in the top of the seventh. The Eagles didn’t walk it off in the bottom half, but senior Cale Blasi came through in the eighth to earn a 2-1 win and set up a rematch of last year’s Class 5A state championship game against Topeka Seaman in the semifinal round.
Blasi stepped up with the bases loaded and one out. He just needed to put pressure on the defense with any ball in play to force a play at the plate, and he delivered with a chopper to second. The throw was off line, and senior Logan Stockemer crossed home to win it.
Carroll coach Charlie Ebright said he needed to take a few breaths to calm down; he was upset the Eagles were in that spot to begin with.
“They were celebrating, but I was mad,” Ebright said. “Eventually I thought, ‘OK, we’re still in it and have a chance to win a championship. I think they’ll learn from it, know what’s at stake and play like themselves.”
Carroll entered the quarterfinal round as the No. 1 seed in Class 5A. The Golden Eagles are one of two undefeated teams left in Kansas and the only in the state’s top four classifications. Salina South didn’t offer a lot of offensive options, and senior Jack Ebright threw six nearly flawless innings.
On paper, Carroll should have breezed into the semifinals.
“We had a few guys swing it, but for the most part, we didn’t,” Ebright said. “But it’s survive and advance.”
Ebright said he is just thankful to still have another shot. All season, Carroll played in one one-run game, and it came in an all but meaningless season finale against Wichita West. But Ebright said those tight spots are where his group shines.
He will hope they shine again Friday against Seaman.
Last year, Seaman beat Carroll 7-2 in the state title game. It held the Golden Eagles away from their first championship since 2012 and third in school history. Ebright said there won’t need to be much of a pep talk.
Seaman beat Arkansas City, last year’s 4A-Division I champ, 1-0 in its quarterfinal game.
“Giant killers,” Ebright said. “We’ve got to be a giant killer.”