Ottawa had an inconsistent regular season, but came together as one in the Zone Tournament in Paola.
Ottawa took once-beaten Paola to the mat and nearly came up with a win Thursday in a winner’s bracket contest. Ottawa fell 5-4.
“We fought,” Ottawa coach Brian Long said. “We stood in the ring with them. There is a reason why they only lost one game this season. We did what we needed to do. I thought we did enough to win the game.”
Long likes how the players have banded together.
“We have grown up a lot in the past six games,” he said. “We have played good baseball. I know what kind of heart we got.
“This team had its peaks and valleys. It has had its moments. It has really come together. That grit, we have seen it. At times, it has not been there. We have taken off.
Ottawa (20-11) needed to beat Garnett and then Paola Friday to force today’s if championship game.
It was one team answering each other. The only scoring came in the second and fifth innings. Both teams had huge 2-RBI doubles in the three-run fifth innings.
Aaron Collins delivered for Ottawa with a cue shot down the right field line. It gave Ottawa a 4-2 lead.
“Aaron Collins came up with that huge hit,” Long said. “That is a good inside-out swing. He drove it. That kid leaves everything in the batter’s box.”
Paola answered with three runs in the bottom of the fifth.
“One pitch that burned us,” Long said. “A kid jumped on it. I could not be happier with the way our pitchers performed. Brock ran out of steam at the end. It is fun to see him have success.”
Ottawa opened the tournament Wednesday with a 9-3 win over Topeka. Trenton Ferguson tossed a complete game with six strikeouts.
“Opening Zone with a solid victory always feels good,” Long said. “That’s a very good team that was in the other dugout as a three seed. We’ve been close all year and we just received an awesome outing from Trenton. He really allowed us to have an obscene amount of pitching to win the last part of this Zone.
“This is probably the toughest Zone in the state and to get in the win column early was necessary.”
Jayden Creach, Clayton Evans, Brock Huddlestun and Keegan Finch led Ottawa with two hits each. Creach and Bones had two RBIs each.
“Our offensive attack was very balanced,” Long said. “We don’t really have a soft spot in that order that would give a coach the opportunity to pitch around someone.”