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Saturday, Aug. 27, 2016

Going nuts! Squirrels headed to World Series

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Charleston first baseman Mark Freed and pitcher Tyler Whybark celebrate after recording the last out Tuesday afternoon to win the Senior Babe Ruth Midwest Plains Regional. Photo by David Jenkins
CHARLESTON -- In just their fourth year of existence the Charleston Fighting Squirrels have advanced to the Senior Babe Ruth World Series for the first time in the program history by winning the Midwest Plains Regional tournament at Hillhouse Park. And no one could be more ecstatic than head coach Michael Minner.

"Wow," an overwhelmed Minner said. "It's just amazing. It's just incredible for our community and I just can't say enough about this group of guys. This has been the best summer of my life and I owe it to these kids."

Kansas did not go quietly though, even facing a five run deficit after the Squirrels hung a four spot on the board in the top of the sixth inning. But, Kansas came right back and scored four runs of there own in the bottom of the sixth to make it a one-run game.

Charleston head coach Michael Minner has a bucket of ice water dumped on him by Mark Freed after the Fighting Squirrels won the Senior Babe Ruth Midwest Plains Regional Tuesday afternoon in Charleston.
With a one-run lead heading into the seventh and final inning, the Squirrels decided to put East Prairie product Tyler Whybark on the hill to try and close out the game and seal a Regional Championship for the Squirrels.

"He's been a battler all year for us," Minner said of Whybark. "I saw Whybark coming across the field and we just give him the ball."

Whybark definitely delivered for the raucous home crowd as he struck out the last two batters to end the game that Whybark said was "amazing".

"It was one of those times when the atmosphere is just crazy and I loved it," Squirrels first baseman Mark Freed said about Whybark and the final outs. "It's a feeling that I've never experienced before. And I doubt any of the rest of the guys have felt it either. It was amazing. I had every bit of faith in the world in Whybark. He threw the ball well against them earlier this weekend and he came out and handled his business real well."

Squirrels pitching was a huge part of the game as the newest Squirrel hurler, Steven Dooley, received the start. He may not have been as dominant as he has been for the Squirrels here lately, but he was good enough to turn in 5 2/3 innings and strike out nine batters in the scorching heat during his time on the mound.

"He didn't have his best stuff but he battled his tail off," Minner said. "But, it's so hot out here and he kept telling me 'my arms fine coach I'm just tired'. He did a great job out there all day. It was just awesome."

Charleston shortstop Blake Gaddis dodges a bad hop on a steal attempt Tuesday afternoon.
"It was very hot out there," Dooley said. "I just couldn't keep the ball down and my curveball wasn't working that well. I relied on my fastball to blow it past them. Sometimes it worked and sometimes it didn't."

Dooley gave up six runs (four earned) on 10 hits and two walks as shortstop Blake Gaddis had a good view of his performance.

"He is automatic," Gaddis said about Dooley. "Balls aren't hit off of him hard. If there is a base hit, it's off the end of the bat with two strikes or a curve ball that they just poke at. He's as good of a pitcher that I've seen in a while."

James Miller and Matt Medlock also made an appearance on the mound and both were in the sixth inning.

Medlock gave up the hit that scored the seventh Kansas run that was charged to Miller, but with a man on second and third he did entice the ground ball that ended the inning and the Kansas threat.

"We used just about every pitcher we had," Minner said. "We didn't play great but we played good enough to win. That's what its about at this point. You want to make sure that you have one more run than them and that's the way it worked out. We don't do anything easy."

The Squirrels were able to obtain a big lead in the fifth and sixth innings when Zach Rowland knocked a two-run double down the left field line to give Charleston a 4-3 lead that they would never relinquish.

Charleston added four more runs in the sixth inning on a squeeze bunt from Jarryd Smith, a two-run triple from Colin Gilooly that was sent into right-center field and a sacrifice fly by Gaddis that scored Gilooly which ended up being the eventually winning run.

"We swung the bats really, really well," said Minner. "When we had opportunities to score, we scored. We didn't leave a lot of guys out there I didn't feel like."

Even though this was a huge win for this Charleston program and the community that supports it, all the Squirrels know that their dream season is not over yet.

"This is what we have played for all year," Gaddis said about a chance to play in the World Series. "To accomplish a goal like that is pretty exciting. We're going to go up there and see what we can bring back and we know there's going to be a lot of tough competition but we feel we can play with them."

"Fortunately, we're going to get to start practicing now and get ready," Minner said. "We've been talking all year long about getting on a plane and going to Ohio. Now it's a reality. It's not a dream anymore."

The Squirrels will start their 'reality' on Aug. 8 in Newark, Ohio at the 2008 Sr. Babe Ruth World Series.