BY JIM MISUNAS
TOPEKA — Larned pitcher Dillan Smith refused to lose. Smith retired the final two batters with the tying and winning runners on base to preserve a wild 10-9 victory over the Salina Hawks for the Class A American Legion state baseball championship.
The Hawks scored three seventh-inning runs after a trio of Larned errors. Jarrett Pittenger ripped a two-run double and Kade Barber drove in the ninth run. But Smith retired Colton Bell on a groundout and struck out Jayton Mathis to trigger a wild celebration.
"The guys formed a dogpile. They loved it," said Kyle LeRoy, Larned coach. "That was a total team effort to win that state championship. Everyone on our team contributed."
LeRoy visited Smith, who was three pitches away from hitting the maximum pitch count.
"Dillan is a calm, cool guy," LeRoy said. "I tried to clam them down. I reminded the guys that winning a state championship is not easy to win. We found a way to get the win."
The Larned Babe Ruth baseball team won the Kansas state championship last summer at Garden City with many of the same players.
LARNED 10, SALINA HAWKS 9 (CHAMPIONSHIP) — Catcher Jack Stelter keyed the Indians' championship with a three-run triple and five RBIs. Stelter threw out Jarrett Pittenger on an attempted steal for a key fifth-inning out.
Final state averages for Larned — Stelter, 7-14, 8 RBIs; Gunnar Cline, 5-9, 10 runs; Kaden Pontius, 4-10, 7 runs; Logan Erway, 4-11, 4 runs; Colin LaBouchardiere, 4-12, 5 RBIs; Dillan Smith, 4-13, 6 runs; Aidan Smyth, 2-8, 5 runs; and Mello Bryant, 1-9, 6 runs.
"From every phase of the game, we did exactly what he needed to do to win the state championship," LeRoy said. "We set ourselves up the way we played our first two games."
Stetler tripled home LaBouchardiere and Stelter scored on Erway's groundout for a 2-0 first-inning lead. Larned starter Christian Murray walked six batters to hand Salina five runs. Pittenger hit a two-run single for a 5-2 first-inning lead.
Stelter's three-run triple scored Jacob Grosfield, Cline and Smyth after Smith's RBI single for a 6-5 lead after two frames. Pontius scored on a bases-loaded walk and Stelter's drove home Cline for an 8-5 lead after four frames.
Pittenger hit an RBI single, but was thrown out by Stelter in the sixth inning. Cline scored on a sixth-inning error for a 9-6 lead. Bryant drilled his only hit with an inside-the-park homer for the eventual game-winner.
LARNED 4, IOLA 2 (SEMIFINAL) — Larned's Gunnar Cline drilled an inside-the-park two-run home run to spark the Indians past Iola. Aidan Smyth (6-2) struck out six batters in 51/3 innings. Christian Murray recorded the final five outs to earn the save.
Larned's Logan Erway singled home Colin LaBouchardiere and Dillan Smith singled in Jack Stelter for a 2-0 lead against Iola pitcher Nathan Louk.
Iola's Tyson Hermreck doubled home T.J. Taylor and Dillon Slaven for a 2-2 tie after two innings. Shortstop Dillan Smith relayed to catcher Jack Stelter, who tagged Hermreck out at home on an attempted steal.
Cline raced around the bases for a fourth-inning home run to drove home Kaden Pontius, who was hit by a pitch.
Larned centerfielder Mello Bryant threw out baserunner Drake Sellman to complete a seventh-inning double play on Dillon Bycroft's fly ball for the game's key defensive play.
LARNED 14, TOPEKA WEST 7 (G12) — Larned's Jack Stelter doubled twice and tripled to drive home two runs with four hits to spark the Indians' 14-7 victory in Friday's third pool game. Cline, Pontius and Gavin Alvarez all doubled.
Dillan Smith drove home three runs. Pontius and Alvarez each drove home two runs. Logan Erway (2-2) struck out six batters in four innings to earn the victory.
Larned 240 201 1 — 10 5 4
Salina 500 010 3 — 9 8 2
Murray, Dillan Smith (1) and Stelter. Pittenger, Bell (3), Mathis (4) and Bolen. W—D. Smith, 7-1. L—Pittenger. 2B—S—Bolen, Pittenger. 3B—L—Stelter 2. HR—L—Bryant.
Iola 020 000 0 — 2 7 1
Larned 200 200 x — 4 7 4
Louk and Sellman. Smyth, Murray (6) and Stelter. W—Smyth, 6-2. L—Louk. 2B—L—Pontius; Iola—Hermreck; 3B—L. HR—L—Cline.
Larned 600 001 7 — 14
Topeka West 010 030 0 — 7
Erway, Grosfield (5), Pontius (7) and Stelter. Appel, Collins (1), Bullock (3), Willard (7), Hernandez (7) and Stiles, Malcom. W—Erway, 2-2. L—Appel. 2B—L—Stelter 2, Cline, Pontius, Alvarez; TW—Appel; 3B—L—Stelter.
CLASS A STATE TOPEKA
x-clinched semifinal spot
POOL A—x-Larned 3-0, x-Topeka Washburn 2-1, Newton 1-2, Topeka West 0-3
POOL B—x-Salina Hawks 2-1 (13), x-Iola 2-1 (14), Great Bend 1-1 (21), Marysville 0-3
7-24—Salina Hawks 12, GB Braves 2; Larned 14, Newton 3; Iola 5, Marysville 0; Topeka Washburn 20, Topeka West 9
7-25—Larned 11, Topeka Washburn 1; Great Bend 12, Iola 4; Newton 9, Topeka West 4; Salina 4, Marysville 3
7-26—Iola 8, Salina Hawks 2; Topeka Washburn 11, Newton 1; Great Bend 16, Marysville 5; Larned 14, Topeka West 7
7-27—SEMIFINALS—G13—Larned 4, Iola 2; G14—Salina Hawks 11, Topeka Washburn 5; CHAMPIONSHIP—Larned 10, Salina Hawks 9