If you are a team that has been to the state tournament 12 straight times and won it the last five years, one might think that it has become old hat to play.



However, for St. Mary’s-Colgan head baseball coach Mike Watt, that is not even close.

If you are a team that has been to the state tournament 12 straight times and won it the last five years, one might think that it has become old hat to play.

However, for St. Mary’s-Colgan head baseball coach Mike Watt, that is not even close.

“If it was old hat, I wouldn’t do it,” Watt said. “It is exciting every year and it is fun to see who is going to take their opportunity to step up and see what they can do.”

Nonetheless, the Panthers (19-1) will start their quest for a sixth straight Class 2-1A state baseball title at 4 p.m. Friday against Chase County (17-5) at Soden’s Grove in Emporia.

On the other hand, Chase County has made it to the state tourney for their fourth consecutive year and, ironically, they have lost to St. Marys in the first round in the last three.

“At least we don’t have them,” said Chase County head coach Jay Talkington. “Our kids are really looking forward to that.”

Inevitably, Chase County has played in the ‘lead-in’ game to the Colgan-St. Marys matchups over the last three years.

Now, they get their shot at the Panthers.

“It has been imposing to play Colgan but, it has been even back to when I was playing in high school,” Talkington said. “I wouldn’t say that we are intimidated but we are excited to play the defending state champ.”

The Bulldogs are led by lone senior Greg Davis who is batting .524 during his final campaign with Chase County. On the mound, junior Shawn Talkington, son of coach Jay, brings a 1.62 ERA into Friday’s matchup with the Panthers.

“He is a very good pitcher and we probably drew one of the better pitchers in the tournament,” Watt said. “We will have our work cut out for us in the first round.

“They are a very experienced team.”

But, on the flip side, the Colgan pitching staff runs close to seven-deep led by junior Jesse Watt, son of coach Mike, and sophomore Nate Arnold. The pair were one walk away from throwing back-to-back perfect games in the regional tournament last week in Pittsburg.

“Coming into the year, I knew we would have a solid pitching staff and it has gotten deeper than I thought it would,” Mike Watt said. “We are about seven-deep which can be an advantage when you go into a three-game, two-day state tournament.”

If anything, the Panthers’ bats have been the biggest surprise to Mike Watt.

“That was the biggest question coming into the year and, I felt like we sputtered early but now everyone has kind of settled in,” Mike Watt said. “We have to be consistent 1 through 9.”

It will be the hitting and baserunning that will be one of the biggest things for the Bulldogs to contend with on Friday.

“We know that they are fast and we expect our catchers to hold them,” Jay Talkington said. “We see people that like to run.

“We have to have our pitching be solid. We have to be around the edges and in the zone.”

But, he said, his defense will have to come up big against a Panther squad that can hit for power as well as play ‘small ball.’

“Our key to our team has been our defense and it has been all year long,” Jay Talkington said. “The games that we have lost have been when we have had a high number of errors and we have to control that.”

The winning philosophy for both coaches is still the same, no matter the strengths or weaknesses.

“You just have to play well in all areas,” Mike Watt said. “To win you have to put compete games together.
“The main thing for us is to do what we have always done and that is put pressure on other teams, and that means baserunning and bunting and trying to do that.”

And Jay Talkington feels optimistic about the Bulldogs chances to be the first team to knock out the Panthers in the first round in the last five years.

“There is going to be a time when someone will beat Colgan in the first round and it might as well be us,” Jay Talkington said. “That is why you play the game.”

Matthew Clark can be reached at matthew.clark@morningsun.net or at 620-231-2600. Follow Morning Sun sports at twitter.com/mssports.