WATHENA – The Atchison Junior A’s entered Thursday’s game against Doniphan County, with three losses – all to Doniphan County.
Fourth time’s a charm?
Atchison beat their nemesis, 8-1, which meant a couple different things. First, and most importantly, the A’s advanced to the Northeast Zone Tournament Finals and automatically qualified for the American Legion Class “A” State Tournament. Second, Atchison exercised some demons – a large group of the team had their 2014 season ended by Doniphan County just one win shy of the state tournament.
“We were just excited about the game because we’ve lost to them every time, but we knew we were close,” said Adam Smith, who pitched seven innings on Thursday. “We had confidence and just came out and did it. We played great defense.”
Atchison’s defense was splendid for much of the night. Smith went the distance, but only recorded three strikeouts. He relied on his teammates to help dispatch DC.
“We were mad we lost last year, and we wanted to get it done this year,” Smith said.
After the teams traded scoreless frames through the first two innings, it seemed like Atchison and DC were destined for another nail-biter. When the A’s scored two runs in the third, they had the early advantage – and it turned out to be all they’d need.
Augie Scholz started the inning with a walk. Hunter Ostertag reached on an error, and Austin Bonnel singled to load the bases.
Smith lifted a sacrifice fly to left field to score Scholz, and Ostertag scored on a ground out by Hunter Wahwahsuck.
DC answered in the top of the third when Wil Smith singled and came around to score on a single by Wyatt Huss. It was the only dent in the scoreboard DC would make all night.
The A’s added insurance runs in the fifth and sixth innings.
Scholz was hit by a pitch to lead off the fifth and advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt by Ostertag. Bonnel singled and Adam Smith knocked in Scholz with a single. Bonnel and Smith scored on an error to push Atchison’s lead to 5-1.
Another error allowed Bonnel to reach in the sixth. Smith singled again and Wahwahsuck scored Bonnel with a single. Back-to-back walks by Parker Welch and Kevin Lykins pushed Smith home and Wahwahsuck came around to score on another DC error.
Atchison led 8-1 with just three outs to go.
The defense faltered – but just for a moment – in the top of the seventh. Smith walked the leadoff batter and another runner reached on an error. Holding aseven-run lead, the A’s focused and shut things down.
A fly-out to Noah Baniewicz in right field came first. Augie Scholz fielded a grounder at first for the second out. Then, the final nail in the coffin, Bonnel scooped up a grounder and fired to Scholz for the last out of the game, sending Atchison to the state tournament.
“We did great at the plate. I thought we did great on defense,” said Coach White. “This is probably the best game we’ve played all year. All around, everything was the way it’s supposed to be. It’s great for the kids and I’m excited for them.”
Smith finished 2-for-2 at the plate with two runs and two RBIs. Wahwahsuck also had two RBIs, and Scholz and Bonnel each scored twice.
Wil Smith was 3-for-3 for DC, knocking a double and two singles.
Atchison advanced to the finals of zone, played Friday night against the winner of the DC and Marysville game, but the mission had already been accomplished. The only thing left to decide would be which teams came out of the zone as the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds.