TOPEKA — To be certain, the Rock Creek baseball team donned their rally caps sometime in the top of the seventh inning during Friday night’s Class 3A state championship game with Wellsville at Falley Field.
Appearing in their first state title game in school history after ousting previously unbeaten Council Grove in the semifinals, the No. 4-seeded Mustangs trailed second-seeded Wellsville, 2-0, before promptly planting runners on second and third base with nobody out in the seventh.
But Wellsville (24-2) recorded some key outs and held on for a 2-1 victory, capturing its first state championship. Rock Creek, the Mid-East League champions, established a school record for wins, finishing 20-6.
“This is really surreal right now,” Rock Creek head coach Chad Herren said in the aftermath. “They went further than anybody in Rock Creek history, but we came for the state title.
“It’s going to sting for a little bit, but hopefully, it’s enough motivation to keep us going in all sports. This was definitely a benchmark season for us.”
Rock Creek’s Jesse Correll led off the seventh by drawing a walk, with Jackson Fike coming on as pinch-runner for him. Nick Beyer followed with a hit-and-run on a 1-1 count, a hard-hit grounder to Eagles shortstop Tony Dugan, who had no play at second and then threw wildly at first. Dugan’s throwing error enabled Fike to advance to third and Beyer to second.
The Mustangs’ Dustin Harrison, who had reached base in his previous two at-bats, including a leadoff double in the fifth, struck out for the first out. Austin Sellers then hit a run-scoring grounder up the middle, where Dugan threw him out at first while Fike crossed the plate to chop Wellsville’s lead in half.
Down to their final out, Zac Nider, who drove in a key run during the Mustangs’ opening-round 6-2 win over Lyons/Chase on Thursday, was retired on a pop fly to Dugan to end the game.
“We had runners on several times,” Herren said. “We had shots to capitalize. Give all the credit to Wellsville.”
The Eagles’ Jared Klamm outdueled the Mustangs’ Caleb Rogge, with Klamm pitching a complete game and Rogge hitting his pitching limit after five innings with 12 innings in two days. Rogge pitched a complete, going seven innings against Lyons/Chase on Thursday.
Correll came on in the sixth for the ‘Stangs.
Rock Creek managed just three hits against Klamm, who struck out seven and walked only two.
Besides Hamilton’s two-base hit, Beyer and Alex Feldkamp had Rock Creek’s other hits, both singles.
The Eagles scored their first run in the second on Trevor Shalkoski’s RBI single, and their second run in the fourth on a Rogge wild pitch.
“It was a great feeling to play for a state championship,” Rock Creek junior shortstop Shilo Schaake said. “It makes us excited to come back again next year.
The Mustangs lose only three players to graduation in infielder Brett Hammett, outfielder/pitcher Harrison and outfielder Josh Stevenson.