Elgin routs Verdigris, hits finals
EDMOND Scrolling across the Skordle app while watching the first Class 4A State tournament semifinal unfold between rivals Blanchard and Tuttle, the Elgin baseball team checked scores across Oklahoma and discovered a puzzling poll on the upcoming game between the Owls and Verdigris (31-6).
According to the poll, which is based on voters' opinion, Elgin had a zero percent chance of winning, failing to receive a single vote a day after pummeling Poteau when given a 28 percent chance to win.
"Hey boys, they say we have a zero percent chance of winning today," Elgin coach Levi Garrett chuckled while telling his Owls before Blanchard blew by Tuttle, 8-2, to book a spot in the championship game.
"Oh, really?" the Owls replied back to their skipper.
Using the slight as a chip on its shoulder, Elgin (27-13) rocked Verdigris with the run-rule in five innings, 16-1, on Friday afternoon at Edmond Santa Fe High School.
"This was super exciting because we are the 'underdogs' and nobody thought we were going to win it," said Elgin second baseman Lance Bianchini, who went 3-for-3 with 5 RBIs. "That's not stopping us from reaching our goals. Our goal is to win it."
Along with a dominant performance on the mound from senior Jacob Dawson, Elgin tallied 14 team hits and blew the game wide open with a 7-run second inning to coast to victory and book a spot in today's Class 4A State championship game against Blanchard at 5 p.m. at Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark in downtown Oklahoma City.
"That's how we've been since this whole playoff journey started," Garrett said of not letting the outside noise or the moment on the big stage faze the Owls. "Yea, we understand it's a big game, but at the end of the day, that game is still played the same way. These guys are doing an unbelievable job and hopefully the hits keep coming tomorrow."
Elgin senior Jaken Snider, who earned the win on the mound in the quarterfinals, flashed his skill set at the plate in the semis. Snider delivered the exclamation point in the fourth inning when he crushed a ball over the left field wall for an emphatic 2-run home run, capping a 5-RBI day as he hit a pair of RBI sacrafice flies as well as an RBI single in his four at-bats.
When Snider finished rounding the bases to push Elgin's lead to 15-1, his teammates mobbed him at home plate.
"When you build a big lead like that, you still have to stay focused," Bianchini said. "When you stay focused and keep grinding, it pays off. So it was a special moment seeing Jaken do that."
Kendrick Black, who went 3-for-3 with a double, 2 RBIs and a walk drawn, followed up Snider's bomb with a single before coming around to score on Bianchini's second extra-base hit of the game. Bianchini's RBI double to the left field wall made it 16-1 Elgin.
Sensing a run-rule, Dawson finished his shortened complete game, shutting down the Cardinals once again in the fifth. Dawson tossed five innings, scattering three hits and yielding only one earned run. Dawson also struck out five, two of which came when fanning Verdigris slugger Austin Woods on clever off-speed pitches in the 3-hole.
"He's waited for this moment," Garrett said of Dawson. "He's relished that moment of throwing here on this stage so I'm real happy for Jacob. This is what a competitor does. They prove how good they are in these kinds of situations."
The final groundout made its way to Jaken Snider, who fired it over to TJ Niedert at first. Once the ball was secured for the final out, implementing the run-rule, the celebration was on.
The Owls knew the next destination was legendary Bricktown.
"These kids are ecstatic," Garrett said. "The elation of that dugout when we got that final out is a memory I'll never forget. To now go play on one of the biggest stages in the state, every kid wants to do that. These kids go all summer with me and they're always at the field. They are baseball guys."
After Snider's RBI sac fly to left field got Elgin on the board in the first inning, TJ Niedert (2-for-2) and Braeden Shackelford (1-for-3) got the run parade started in the second, leading off with back-to-back singles.