(Photo by Brent Shipman, Staff)
CHAFFEE -- A year after watching Jackson deny them their fourth straight title, the Charleston Fighting Squirrels are back on top once again.
Facing the Chaffee Squids during the Missouri Senior Babe Ruth State Baseball Tournament championship game on Sunday, Charleston jumped out to a huge early lead before securing a 13-0 win after five innings on the mercy rule.
"We take pride in what we do and we're back where we want to be," Charleston coach Michael Minner said. "We've said all year this is going to be a special group and we're swinging that bats very, very well right now."
Unlike the day prior, when the Squirrels were forced to mount a seven-run comeback to beat the Squids 11-10 in extra innings to stay in the winner's bracket, Charleston wasted little time getting its offense going on Sunday.
Following a single by Marshall Stallings and a walk by Seth Childers to start the bottom of the first, Bobby Childers hit a home run to left field that gave the Squirrels an early 3-0 advantage.
"I thought the left fielder was going to catch it," Clark said of the blast. "I didn't think it had a chance, really, of the bat of going out, but it carried pretty well out there."
An inning later Charleston nearly batted around the order twice in what ended up being a 10-run rally to make up the 13-10 final.
After a pair of walks and an error had loaded the bases, Seth Childers kicked off the rally with a bases-clearing line drive to right center fielder that left him with a stand up double. Nathan Rodgers kept things going with a double to score Childers and shortly later was crossing the plate himself when Danny McKinney singled to left field.
The final two runs of the rally came when Rodgers came back up to the plate and hit a bases-loaded line drive to left field that scored a pair of runs.
"We came out here and played well," Rodgers said. "We played good defense and rattled the bats like crazy.
"(Chaffee's pitcher) didn't throw heat or anything, but as long as you stay back and hit the ball where it's pitched your going to score runs no matter whose pitching."
Though the Squirrels weren't able to put any runs on the board in the final few frames, starting pitcher Dalton Golightly did more than enough to hold on to the comfortable lead.
Going all five innings, Golighly held the Squids scoreless on four hits and one walk while striking out three.
"He's done a real good job of keeping us in ball games," Minner said. "We take a lot of pressure off the pitching (with our offense).
"It's always nice to pitch with a lead and this is the first time this weekend that we didn't have to come from behind. So we were able to take pressure off (Dalton) and he did a tremendous job to keep us in the game."
Leading Charleston in its seven-hit performance, both Rodgers and Clark finished with a pair of hits, including a double by both hitters. Ethan Browning contributed a double while Stallings and McKinnney each singles.
For Chaffee, Trevor Cannon, Josh Overbey, Alex Davie and Cody Johnson each had a single.
"We did stupid things to give the game away," Chaffee coach Aaron Horrell said of his team's performance. "The pitching just wasn't the best today. We walked a lot of guys and they're a great hitting team. We already knew that coming in."
With Charleston already guaranteed a spot in this week's Regional Tournament because of their hosting duties, Chaffee also earned a spot in the tournament which begins next Friday in Charleston.
|Chaffee||0 0 0 00 - 0|
|Charleston||3(10)0 0x - 13|
WP -- Dalton Golightly. LP -- Josh Overbey. 2B -- (CL) Bobby Clark, Nathan Rodgers, Ethan Browning. HR -- (CL) Clark.
Chaffee 4, MO Valley 2
CHAFFEE -- With the Chaffee Squids short on arms and the season on the line, Blake Keasler took to the mound and didn't disappoint.
Playing in the finale of the loser's bracket of the Missouri Senior Babe Ruth Tournament on Sunday, Keasler held Missouri Valley to two runs on four hits and no walks to propel the Squids to a 4-2 win.
"I just went out there throwing strikes and let the defense work like always," said Keasler, who had four strikeouts on the game. "We played well, with only one error, and that's all you can ask."
After three scoreless innings by both teams, Chaffee was finally able to get on the board in the fourth, mounting a four-run rally that accounted for all of their offense on the game.
The Squids were able to load the bases before a hit by Cody Payne put Chaffee in the lead for good.
"We had bases loaded and the ball got through the right side," Horrell said. "The right fielder kind of misplayed it. We probably would have got two off it, but it went out to the fence and we end up getting three."
The fourth run of the inning came on a catcher's interference call sending Payne home from third.
Missouri Valley spent the next few frames trying to chip away the deficit starting with a run in the fifth before a solo home run by Rhett Quinlan in the sixth closed Chaffee's lead to two at 4-2.
"It was a 3-1 pitch and I kind of left it across the plate," Keasler said. "I should have just put him on, but I didn't want to walk anybody."
Staying composed, however, Keasler was able to retire the next two batters to end the inning before pitching a scoreless seventh to close out the game.
With much of the pitching rotation used up from the prior three days of tournament action, Horrell had faith Keasler was fresh enough to pull out the win.
"I looked in the dugout and kids are icing there arms so I'm checking off the list (of who can pitch today)," Horrel said. "When it got down to it Blake was the only kid available that I had faith in to go out there.
"He throws junk and I've seen Missouri Valley play. They're real aggressive at the plate. I'm just proud of Blake throwing the ball well today."
|Chaffee||000 400 0 - 4|
|MO Valley||000 011 0 - 2|
WP -- Blake Keasler. LP -- Rhett Quinlan. 2B -- (M) Jason Luster. HR -- (M) Rhett Quinlan.