Ottawa’s confidence in their big-game experience could be key in the chase for a third straight state title.
Since their Zone 4 championship a week-and-a-half ago, the American Legion Post 60 Arrows focused on fine-tuning their game, Brian Long, Ottawa head coach, said. With the state tournament looming this week, Long noted the momentum from the Zone sweep is still there, and keeping the energy high will be a difference-maker.
“From a momentum standpoint, I think we are confident with being able to turn the intensity on at any given time,” Long said. “We are experienced enough to know that we have to take advantage of that energy. We are a very energy-driven team. When we are into it, and the energy level is up, we hit the ball well, we throw the ball well and we catch the ball well.”
Ottawa (31-8) kicks off state in the nightcap set to start roughly 8 p.m. Wednesday against Hays at Orlis Cox Sports Complex, 901 W. Second St., Ottawa. Long didn’t go into specifics, but noted this year’s AAA state qualifiers are talented teams.
“From the standpoint of our opponents — if they’re at this tournament — they are pretty good, and they’ve have a good season,” he said. “There’s not much difference between the team that wins state, and a team that goes 2-3. You have to put everything together, and it comes down onto the shoulders of young men. Hopefully, that is where experience separates you.”
Leavenworth and Nickerson begin the double elimination tournament 1 p.m. Wednesday, followed by Great Bend vs. Chanute, Arkansas City vs. Oskaloosa and Ottawa vs. Hays. A win, would advance Ottawa to Thursday’s late game in the winner’s bracket.
But they’ll have to get by the Hays Eagles first, who Long noted have not been to a Legion state tournament in a couple years, but does have a good high school program, which is used to making deep postseason runs.
“There are teams with some great experience here,” he said. “Match-ups are going to be pretty even throughout the tournament, and it is going to be a good challenge for all of us.”
Ottawa had success against two state-qualifying teams during the regular season. Ottawa went 4-1 against Chanute, and splitting a June 30 doubleheader in Oskaloosa. The Arrows compiled a 4-3 mark in their final seven regular-season games, averaging a little more than four runs per game. Ottawa heated up, and handily swept the Zone Tournament in Chanute with back-to-back wins, outscoring their opponents 27-6.