PERRYVILLE -- The Kelly Hawks battled back from deficits all day, but, in the end, it was the Valle Catholic Warriors who prevailed with a devastating finish.
No. 2-seed Valle handed No. 1 Kelly a 15-8 extra-inning loss in the MSHSAA Class 2, District 2 baseball championship final on Thursday at Perryville City Park.
Valle scored seven times in the top of the eighth inning.
"These guys have been strong the whole year," said Valle coach Judd Naeger. "We've been scoring runs late all year and I just admire the heart of this team."
But the Warriors got help from the Hawks, who continued a season-long theme of being their own worst enemy.
Kelly opened the door with two costly errors -- a dropped throw on a forceout and a wide throw on another force play -- in the eighth, rendering all seven Valle runs unearned.
"Of all the games we've lost this year, I think we've beat ourselves as many times as anybody's beat us, by not making plays," said Kelly coach Cory Johnson.
Kelly (14-11), however, proved its mettle and character, overcoming deficits of 2-0, 5-3, 8-3, 8-4 and 8-6 to pull even with two runs in the bottom of the sixth to tie.
"When we fought back, I thought we had a good chance," said Johnson. "We tied it at 8-8 and had the momentum going into the bottom half of the seventh inning. All we need is a run to end it, knowing they had the top of their lineup coming up, and we couldn't produce."
Valle (15-6), aided by an error on the opening play of the game, scored two unearned runs in the first inning off Kelly starter Caleb Daughhetee.
In the Kelly half of the first, leadoff batter Jordan Felter connected on a towering solo home run to left field to cut the margin to 2-1.
Daughhetee doubled but was caught in a rundown on Blake Lee's grounder. In hindsight, that potential run, along with a couple of other baserunning gaffes by the Hawks, loomed large in the final analysis.
The next batter Jon Simpher blasted a two-run homer over the left-
centerfield fence to lift Kelly to a 3-2 lead.
In the second, Valle matched Kelly's three-run inning to retake the lead at 5
Another Hawk defensive miscue, one of six on the day, allowed a third unearned run to cross the plate.
Of Valle's 15-run total, four were earned.
Daughhetee was relieved with two outs in the second by Russell Carroll, who retired the side, thanks to a fine diving catch by left fielder Dustin LeGrand.
The Warriors touched Carroll for three more scores in the third for an 8-3 advantage.
Although down by five, Kelly coach Johnson was confident. The Hawks had scored 15 and 16 runs in their two previous district contests.
"With the score at 8-3 in the middle innings, we still feel, the way we've been hitting the ball, that we're going to make a run at them," he said.
Carroll hurled a scoreless fourth, then on came Dallas Tew, who threw three solid scoreless innings to keep the Warriors at bay and give the Hawks an opportunity to pull closer.
"That was huge," said Johnson, of Tew's moundwork. "For him to come in and shut the door on them for three innings and not allow them to get any more runs was big.
"That gave us a little more excitement, we made plays and momentum starting rolling our way."
The Hawks tacked on a single run in the third to trim the lead to 8-4. A two-base error on Daughhetee's leadoff flyball to center preceded Simpher's RBI single.
The Hawks crept closer with two in the fourth.
Another baserunning mistake on an ill-advised attempted steal erased a potential run, then with two outs, Stephen Strobel and Felter drew consecutive walks.
A passed ball allowed both runners to advance. Daughhetee's line single up the middle scored both to narrow the lead to 8-6.
With Valle in a holding pattern, the Hawks' Felter homered again, a game-
tying two-run shot at the 315-foot sign in left field to knot the score at 8.
"I came out today with an intense focus, knowing that at playoff time it's win or go home and it usually comes down to who wants it more," said the senior Felter. "When I hit the field today, I had the mindset that I was going to make things happen. I wasn't going to let things come to me, I was going to make it happen and I got a couple of pitches to hit and I put them over the fence."
Neither team scored in the seventh prior to Valle's game-deciding inning, capped by a grand slam by Nathan Grass with the Warriors up two at 10-8.
Valle starter and winning pitcher Kellen Basler, although rocked a bit, battled all evening, putting the Hawks down in order in their final two at-bats.
"He's a senior and he did just exactly what we ask our seniors to do, go out there and compete," said Naeger. "He (Basler) threw six innings Monday and came back and threw eight today and I think he was throwing better late than he was early."
Basler went the distance, giving up eight runs -- seven earned -- on eight hits with nine strikeouts and four walks.
Felter, Daughhetee and Simpher led the Hawks offense with two hits each. Felter and Simpher drove home three runs each, Daughhetee two.
The Hawks got little production from the bottom of the order -- one hit in 20 at-bats from the No. 5-9 hitters.
Said Johnson, "We've been hitting it real well the last three weeks of the season and we were hoping to carry that over. Not to say we didn't hit it pretty decent today, we just didn't get it done one through nine like we have been."
Starter Daughhetee was charged with five runs -- two earned -- in 1 2/3 innings with two strikeouts and one walk. Carroll went 2 1/3 innings, allowed three runs -- two earned -- with one strikeout and three walks.
Tew, despite a strong effort, was saddled with the loss. He went four innings, issued five hits with one strikeout and one walk.
As previously mentioned, none of the seven runs charged to Tew were earned.
Although finishing the season on a sour note, Johnson lauded his players, who certainly never failed for lack of effort.
"I can't say enough about this group," he said. "We had a lot of fun this year and they worked extremely hard to get to this point. I'm very proud of them, especially the seniors--the leaders they are and the way they came back and ended with a great season."
Valle meets District 1 champion South Pemiscot, 12-0 winners over Senath-
Hornersville, in the sectional round.