For the first time in six years, Savannah has made it past the quarterfinal round of the Class 4 District 16 playoffs.
Though not quite in dominating form, the No. 1 seed Savages beat No. 4 Lafayette 2-1 on MondaY at Phil Welch Stadium.
Riding the back the back of a strong pitching performance from senior Braden Berry, the Savages now have an opportunity to play Kirksville in the championship and potentially could have their most successful postseason since their 2012-’13 district championship run.
With expectations built up over the season becoming realized, Savannah (22-1) focuses on keeping focused.
“We’re even-keeled, we always preached ‘1-0’. But that’s a good team we beat and obviously we’re happy about it,” Savannah senior Chase Spoonemore said. “All year we’ve preached pitching and defense, and that played a huge part in this one.”
Base hits were a rare commodity for both sides, totaling just 10 between the two teams.
In lieu of an offensive slugfest, the contest boasted a pitching duel. Lafayette (14-7) sophomore Brayden Luikart threw four strikeouts through the first four innings, but it was Berry for the Savages who stole the show.
The senior allowed just four base hits through the seven innings he took the mound.
Savannah coach Erich Bodenhausen discussed the efforts of both pitchers.
“(Berry) is just a competitor. He’s a great pitcher, every time he takes the mound we expect to win,” Bodenhausen said. “We knew Luikart was gonna throw strikes because he’s a really good pitcher, but our kids had a good approach at the plate. Enough to push across a couple runs.”
Though hard to ever rationalize a season-ending loss, Lafayette coach Jason Hale knows there are worse ends than a hard-fought defeat against a one loss opponent.
“There’s not words to describe how proud I am of them, and the battle they waged against a pitcher who is one of the top pitchers in the conference,” Hale said. “We knew it was going to be a close game but they wanted it. These guys are harder on themselves than I could ever be, and I’ve been pretty hard on them.”
As he prepares to endure the offseason, Hale reflects on the time spent and memories made this season.
“I know it may sound corny, but the passion I have for these boys and with the time I’ve sacrificed to spend time with these guys, it’s a huge part of my life,” Hale said. “This season with the losing early, finding our stride late, it grew this team. I’d do it all over again.”
Kirksville 6, Benton 0
The No. 2 Kirksville Tigers proved themselves to be worthy participants in the district championship on Wednesday, comfortably defeating No. 3 seed Benton with a 6-0 victory Monday night at Phil Welch Stadium.
Though they started slow, after a 2-0 advantage was gained in the third inning they never relinquished control. They allowed just two hits throughout the contest, and exploded for four runs in the top of the fifth to put the game out of reach and end Benton’s season.
They will play Savannah for the Class 4 District 16 championship at 6 p.m. on Wednesday at Phil Welch Stadium.