SALINA – Thursday afternoon marked the seventh time this season that Atchison and Doniphan County faced each other in Class A American Legion baseball.
DC had won five of the previous matchups, but Thursday’s game held the highest stakes of the season: the winner would stay alive in the Class A State Tournament, while the loser’s season would come to an end. The tone was set in the first inning as DC took advantage of two Atchison errors, scoring five runs en route to a 12-2 win in four innings.
Doniphan acted as the home team against Atchison, using solid defense to erase a lead-off walk by starting pitcher Wil Smith. The same couldn’t be said about the Junior A’s in the bottom half of the inning.
Tyler Franken reached on an error, and after a Brody Winder single, Smith reached on another Atchison error. With Atchison blood in the water, DC went into shark-attack mode and took advantage of the extra outs. Four more singles resulted in five DC runs.
“That’s been the story all year,” said Atchison Coach White. “Errors get us down and we have a hard time coming back. I still believed we could come out, do a little a fighting, and we did a little bit, but just not enough. (DC), you’ve got to give them credit – they hit the ball well.”
The attack continued in the bottom of the second. Franken singled, Winder reached on an error and Smith singled to score Franken. Winder and Smith scored on a double by Wyatt Huss, giving DC an 8-0 lead.
Atchison finally dented the scoreboard in the third. Augie Scholz lifted a looping liner to left. Hunter Ostertag walked and he and Scholz scored on an error by DC. It was the only bright spot for the A’s.
DC answered with two in the bottom of the frame to make it 10-2 after three. The A’s were scoreless in the top of the fourth, but DC put an exclamation mark on the win with two more runs in the bottom half to invoke the run-rule.
The A’s finished the season with an 11-7 record. All seven losses came to state-qualifying teams – Ark City knocked off Atchison on Wednesday in Salina – and DC accounted for six of those losses. Atchison beat DC once, which qualified the A’s for the state tournament.
“They have a lot of talent on that team,” White said. “We have talent, they have talent and it’s always a war. When you face a team seven times, you never know what’s going to happen. They seemed to have our number.”
DC went on to beat Paola and McPherson before losing to Ark City in the championship game. The only two teams to beat the A’s all season were the two teams to play for the state championship. While the season ended earlier than Atchison intended, White said it was still a good year – one that saw the A’s as one of the final six teams remaining.
“Not a lot of teams make it to state,” he said. “Top six in the state? You can’t be mad about that. I think we met our expectations and exceeded them. I’m very proud of our boys.”