EMPORIA — Ottawa gave the No. 3 team in the state all it had, but wound up 90 feet short.
With runners on second and third with one out in the top of the seventh inning, Cameron Reynolds, junior, struck out on a 3-2 pitch and JD Van Horn, sophomore, flied out to end a tug-of-war affair against Andover Central in Thursday’s 4A state baseball tournament opening round. The Jaguars won 4-3, sending Ottawa High School home from Soden’s Grove in Emporia as storm clouds moved in, effectively delaying the following contest between Buhler and Bishop Miege.
Kaleb Shaffer, senior, doubled down the third base line with one out in the top of the seventh, and Colby McCurdy, sophomore, came on as a pinch runner. Owen LaMar, senior, drove a double in the air to left field, but McCurdy only advanced to third after going back to second to tag. Cooper Elliot came on to pitch for Andover Central and recorded the final two outs.
“They made mistakes, we made mistakes,” Shawn Herrmann, OHS head baseball coach, said. “They gave us some runs and we gave them some runs. That is just kind of how baseball works sometimes.”
After 4A DI state baseball’s first game between Arkansas City and Independence saw a blowout, the Cyclones and Jaguars put on a show full of back-and-forth opposition. Andover Central took the early lead in the bottom of the first when Matt Macy scored on an Ottawa error. Reynolds got the line moving in the top of the second with some two-out magic. He doubled and was driven in by Van Horn, who hit an RBI single to tie things up.
Ottawa took the lead in the top of the third when Chad Bones, junior, hit a one-out RBI single to score Jackson Allen, junior. Chandler Bloomer, senior, doubled later in the inning, and Shaffer hit a fielder’s choice to third with two outs. Bones was thrown out at home on the play.
A one-out RBI sac fly by the Jaguars in the ensuing half-inning tied the score up again, 2-2.
The Cyclones struck back again in the top of the fourth. Reynolds scored on a one-out throwing error by Central’s first baseman to make it 3-2. Chance Crowley, senior, and Allen drew back-to-back walks, but Jared Parenti, senior, and Bones both flied out to end the threat.
Bloomer hit a double to lead off the top of the fifth, and the Cyclones worked a two-out, bases-loaded situation after Reynolds drew a walk and Van Horn hit an infield single. Crowley struck out in the ensuing at-bat, leaving three on.
The Jaguars made their opponent pay in the bottom of the fifth. Tristen Saunders hit a one-out RBI single to tie the game for a third time. In the next at-bat, Stratton Stamp reached on a fielder’s choice to the shortstop, Bones. An error on the exchange from Bones to the second baseman Van Horn attempting to turn a double-play allowed Andover Central to score the go-ahead run from second and still have only one out. Ottawa limited the damage to two runs on two hits and one error, but that proved to be the difference. Both teams had 1-2-3 half-innings in the sixth, leading to the adrenaline-filled climax in the top of the seventh.
Parenti finished the game tossing 94 pitches through all six innings for Ottawa. He allowed just five hits.
“He’s been consistent all year,” Herrmann said. “He went from pitching one inning last year to being arguably our No. 1 pitcher right now. To go out against the No. 3 team in the state and throw a five-hitter, I can’t ask anymore from a high school player than that.”
Herrmann was proud of his team despite the loss, especially his seniors, he said.
“It has been an honor,” Herrmann said. “I’ve been here 16 years and every year I get great kids who want to play hard. They don’t always like what I say, but they always do it. Coming to the state tournament every year is just a blessing. These kids are all crying because that is how much it means to them and that is how much it means to me. I’m proud of the toughness and the grit and everything that we’ve gone through.”