BALDWIN — The Cyclones are in a familiar position. By claiming the regional title Tuesday, the Ottawa High School baseball team is back in the 4A DI state baseball tournament. The team returns one year after making its first ever state championship game appearance. It is the eighth state appearance for OHS since 2003 under head coach Shawn Herrmann, and the third bid in the past four years.
“We have to make sure we keep our nerves in check,” Herrmann said. “That is one thing we are really going to talk about is, the nine guys who were on the team last year, we have to make sure they remember how nervous it was last year and that we have to keep our nerves in check and that it is just another game and get ready to play.”
The tournament moved from Salina to Soden’s Grove, 1000 S. Comercial St., Emporia, this year, and is set for next Thursday and Friday.
Ottawa punched its ticket following back-to-back 4-1 wins against Baldwin and Abilene Tuesday in the 4A regional tournament hosted in Baldwin City.
“When we got to the park, I could tell the kids were all business,” Herrmann said. “There was not a whole lot of goofing around, and they were serious-faced. I could tell all season long was behind them and it was a new day and a new feel. They were just ready to go.”
The Cyclones proved focused by beating Baldwin — a team that had just edged them Thursday in a 6-5 contest. OHS took the lead for good in the fourth inning, breaking a 1-1 tie by scoring on an error and a sacrifice fly by Jared Parenti, senior. The team added an insurance run in the sixth and kept the Bulldogs off the board to advance to the championship game against Abilene. The Cowboys were the No. 4 seed in the tournament and knocked off top-seeded Wamego 9-1 in the early game.
An RBI double by Chad Bones, junior, in the third inning gave Ottawa an early 1-0 lead. Abilene struck back in the fourth to tie the game 1-1, but a pair of OHS seniors helped get the lead back for good. Owen LaMar scored on a fielder’s choice in the bottom of the fourth, and teammate Chandler Bloomer hit a two-RBI single in the bottom of the fifth that gave the team a 4-1 lead.
The senior pitching trio of Chance Crowley, Jared Parenti and Jonny Nash allowed just two runs to cross the plate through both games.
“They at times they pitched themselves into jams and we had a few mistakes in the field,” Herrmann said. “All three pitchers, when they had to, made big pitches to get the outs and our defense stepped up behind them.”
In the end, the team’s seven seniors — Colson Bien, Kaleb Shaffer, LaMar, Parenti, Crowley, Nash and Bloomer — will get one more crack at the state tourney.
“It was just a release, and a very happy moment for our kids who have put in the time and the work,” Herrmann said. “They deserve it.”