Many of the games have been grind-it-out contests.
When it was announced Iola, the two-time state champs, would be added to the Zone 6 Tournament, Ottawa did not flinch.
It was just one more hurdle to overcome with teams such as Paola and Wellsville in the field.
“It was like team USA in World Cup soccer going through the group of death,” Ottawa pitcher Nathan Roth said following Ottawa’s 7-4 victory over Paola Saturday in the Zone 6 championship game in Pomona. “It is awesome. I have been dreaming about this the past four years.”
Ottawa took the long road to the championship, falling 7-2 Friday to Paola to force a second championship game.
“We tried to make too many plays,” infielder Alex Stepp said about Friday’s loss. “We put too much pressure on ourselves. It was a battle the whole way through. We let the game come to us.”
Ottawa coach Shawn Herrmann said the players understood it was not going to be an easy road through the Zone.
“We have developed our toughness. The past two or three weeks, we have been really tough.”
Ottawa (24-11) plays 6:30 p.m. Wednesday in the American Legion AA State Tournament in Wathena against Ellis, the Zone 1 winner.
This is Ottawa’s first Zone title since 2010 and first state appearance since 2011 when it was in Ottawa.
Herrmann said Ottawa played loose and with energy in the title game.
“They knew what was at stake,” Herrmann said. “Today they did exactly what we needed.”
What was needed: everybody pulling as one.
“It was a great team effort,” Roth, who was the MVP of the Zone tourney, said. “We don’t have any superstar players. It is a great group of guys playing together as a team.”
Herrmann said the players understand the team concept.
“How can you be mad about one of your teammates stepping in and doing something for you to achieve our goal,” he said. “That is what total team effort is all about.”
With the game on the line in the sixth inning, Herrmann called upon the reserves.
Brock Huddlestun came up with a big pinch-hit single then Conner Medlen, the birthday boy, came in to run for him. When the smoke cleared, Ottawa scored five runs to extend the lead to 7-1.
“That one inning was huge,” Herrmann said. “I could not be more happy for Brock Huddlestun stepping in and getting a big hit for us.
“When Brock Huddlestun got that hit, he was the grand marshal of the hit parade. It started after that. We had three or four hits in a row. I told those guys on the single A they did not come here as a spectator. You came here as a player.”
Roth put Ottawa on his back as he kept Paola’s high-powered offense in check. He surrendered nine hits, but wriggled out of jams in the first, third and seventh innings. Paola had runners at second and third when he ended the game with his fourth strikeout.
“Nathan is one of our best pitchers,” Herrmann said. “He is mentally tough. I knew he would go out and give us a chance to win.”
Alex Stepp said the Ottawa players have a lot of confidence in Roth.
“He never gets too frustrated,” Stepp said. “He always makes big pitches. He picks us up.”
1 p.m. — Silver Lake vs. Concordia
3:30 p.m. — Sabetha vs. Larned
6:30 p.m. — Ottawa vs. Ellis
8:30 p.m. — Wathena vs. Fort Scott
10 a.m. — Game 1 loser vs. Game 2 loser
12:30 p.m. — Game 3 loser vs. Game 4 loser
6 p.m. — Game 1 winner vs. Game 2 winner
8:30 p.m. — Game 3 winner vs. Game 4 winner