different feel. It certainly juiced the Ottawa Arrows.
The Ottawa American Legion baseball team — which struggled with consistency throughout the season — has turned it on in the Zone 3 Tournament this week at home.
The Arrows defeated the Topeka Senators and Doniphan County, 11-8, Thursday, to move into the championship game.
“We are sitting in a good spot now,” Kyle Altic, Arrows coach, said. “We have had our ups and downs all year. It comes down to the last couple of weeks. We are playing good right now. I could tell whenever we played Tuesday, everybody was a little more into it. It is a good time to be doing that.”
Arrows catcher Wayne Laurie said the players understand this is the time to turn it on.
“Everybody came together wanting to win, wanting to keep going,” Laurie said. “Everybody is realizing if we lose, we are done. There are six of us that this is our last year. We have been struggling all year trying to play error-free baseball and hit the baseball [consistently]. We are coming together and are actually wanting it. We have one more left to go.”
The squad played in the championship game late Friday night, but results were not available at press time.
Altic and Laurie said a tough schedule and close losses against good teams were paying dividends in this tournament.
“You are playing good competition at those tournaments,” Altic said. “Our record does not show it, but we are a good team.”
Laurie said the players received a boost of confidence by their showing in the St. Louis and FIKE tournaments.
“We went up to St. Louis and beat a pretty good team,” Laurie said. “We only lost by one or two runs in both of those games. In the FIKE Tournament, we stuck with every team. Seeing that, people saw we can get it done.”
The Ottawa bats came alive, putting pressure on Doniphan County’s pitching and defense through-out the Zone contest. But the big hit came in the third inning when Michael Hull smacked a two-run home run to give Ottawa a 3-0 lead.
“That was a monster hit,” Laurie said. “That got the momentum way up there. We saw he did it, ‘maybe I can hit it now.’”
Ottawa built an 11-3 lead, heading into the bottom of the seventh and struggled to put the game away. Doniphan County parlayed walks and solid hits into a five-run rally and had the go ahead run at the plate with two outs.
“I was trying to get Brett [Hadl] to throw a strike,” Laurie said. “He was playing with them, throwing a strike, then a ball, a strike then a ball. We have to keep pitch counts low and strikes all day. I went out there said ‘boys, we had an eight-run cushion. That tying run is on first we have to get an out.’ We are at home. We can’t give it up.”
Brody Mundell got the last out to sew up the championship berth.
Altic said the pitchers were solid in stretches.
“Tanner [Gould] started well, but got into a little rough patch,” he said. “We brought in Brett, he threw strong. He could not finish it. He was getting tired. He was getting up there in pitches. Brody got the last out, which was what we needed.”