Two baseball heavyweights on the eastern side of Kansas clashed in the Class 3A state championship gamenight at Frank Myers Field/Tointon Family Stadium on the campus of Kansas State.
St. Mary's Colgan and Silver Lake owned a combined 31 state titles entering their game — Colgan a state-record 16 and Silver Lake 15. Silver Lake won its first title in 1953 and Colgan in 1964.
Colgan made it sweet No. 17 with a 10-0 win in six innings, plating four runs in the first and four in the third.
"It's just a great feeling," Colgan head coach Mike Watt said. "A great sense of accomplishment for the kids. It's so nice to sit back and watch the jubilation and the families celebrate together because we put a lot of time in. I know a lot of teams do but it's so nice for the kids to enjoy this and have this moment."
Since 2002, schools from the Crawford-Neosho-Cherokee League have won seven 3A titles in Manhattan — Baxter Springs in 2002, 2003, 2006 and 2007, Galena in 2010, Frontenac in 2012 and Colgan in 2013.
"Our league is very competitive," Watt said. "Frontenac came up here last year and won the 3A title. Our league has been very good and you throw in our nonconference schedule in there, I would argue we play the toughest 3A schedule in the state. Our kids know that. I told them at the beginning of the year we're going to take some lumps but we're going to get better and it eventually paid off for us."
Colgan (20-5) made its way to the title through No. 4 Lyons, No. 1 Wichita Independent and No. 3 Silver Lake.
The Panthers started their season 0-3 with one-run losses to Nevada (Mo.) and Frontenac and their other two losses came against tough opponents Kansas City Bishop Ward and Seneca (Mo). Colgan steadily improved over the season.
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"That's what I told them right there," Watt said. "We got together right at the end and I said, 'Guys, you know, we struggled early but we just gradually got better and better and better and now they're 3A state champs. It's something they'll remember forever.'"
Colgan seniors V.J. Piccini, Nate Grimaldi and Grant Normand end their careers with a state championship victory.
"V.J. and Nate started as sophomores," Watt said. "They played a lot as sophomores and they've been through the summers with me in Legion baseball. They put in a lot of time and were able to play earlier in their career. Grant Normand is a kid that kept working hard and was dedicated. He didn't get a lot of time last year but put his time in and this year, he was a big factor in our success. What a great example for all the kids . . . I want to keep working and I'm going to get some opportunities. I'm really happy for him."
Colgan started the game with four consecutive singles — Grimaldi, Colton Gilbert, Christian Cedeno and Ryan Cedeno. Christian Cedeno collected his third and later his fourth two-run single of the state tournament, after two of them against Lyons.
Leading off the third, Drew Dawson rocketed one over the wall in left center for a 6-0 Colgan lead and the Panthers' first home run of the season in game No. 25.
"That was a great moment for him," Watt said. "He came around third base and I don't think he was breathing. He was so excited. He was kind of . . . I don't think he believed it went out. What a great time to have your first home run of the season."
Teams at state seemed to have little answer for the team speed of the Panthers, especially when Grimaldi and Gilbert reached base.
Page 3 of 6 - "Our speed was a big factor for us in this game tonight," Watt said. "Drew Dawson did just a tremendous job. Silver Lake's team speed was probably better than ours and he did a great job of just throwing strikes, letting the defense play and giving us an opportunity to win."
Dawson pitched a complete game shutout in the title tilt in addition to his solo home run on a NCAA Division I ballpark.
After not qualifying for the state tournament for the first time in the 21st century last season, Colgan made it back this season and brought home the big trophy.
"These kids have talked about that all year," Watt said, "about getting back here and coming up here and just putting in their best effort and getting another state title. They did. The kids have just been incredible. They played great defense, they pitched well, we hit. We talk about what you have to do to win up here. You've got to play well in all facets of the game and we did."
Colgan 3, Wichita Independent 2
In the first game of the day, the Battle of the Panthers, Colgan fell behind 2-0 during an ugly first inning — Independent starter Matthew Loveland struck out 1-2 hitters Nate Grimaldi and Colton Gilbert swinging in a 1-2-3 top half and Independent scored two runs on two hits.
Colgan senior V.J. Piccini hit Independent leadoff man Benjamin Strickfaden with the very first pitch and Independent used a RBI single from cleanup man Michael Kay and a 4-3 groundout by Kevin Jarvis for the game's opening salvo.
Freshman catcher Ryan Cedeno started the second with a single to left, Austin Kratz bunted Cedeno over into scoring position, a wild pitch moved Cedeno 90 feet closer to Colgan's first run and senior Grant Normand scored Cedeno as he reached on an infield single, an ever-important two-out hit.
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Colgan plated one in the second but the Panthers closed out the scoring in the third with two runs on three hits and one costly Independent error.
Grimaldi and Gilbert showed off their game-changing speed to start the rally.
No. 2, in his second time up against Loveland, hit one into left center and what might have been a single for the average player Grimaldi turned into a leadoff double as he turned on the jets and cruised into second.
The momentum proved to be turning in Colgan's favor when Gilbert lifted one into shallow left. Independent shortstop Avery Riedmiller and left fielder Garrett Hupman converged on the ball and narrowly avoided the collision but the ball dropped in between them. Grimaldi scored and Gilbert raced into second.
With two outs and even in the count at 2-all, Drew Dawson plated Gilbert with the game-winning run on another bloop hit.
Hits became rarer after Colgan scored the game's final run — both teams combined for four, two apiece.
A runner's interference call denied Colgan a run in the fourth — instead of a run on a bases loaded fielder's choice, Tully Yoakam (third) and Grimaldi (second) were returned to their original bases and Gilbert and Christian Cedeno were out — and Independent was derailed in the fourth by a tailor-made 4-6-3 double play turned by Austin Kratz and Luke Marquardt.
On the mound, Piccini settled down after a rough first inning and was relieved by Christian Cedeno with one down in the sixth.
Cedeno retired five of the six batters he faced, gave up a lone single in the seventh to Riedmiller and 14 of his 18 pitches were strikes. Independent catcher Tanner Cairns struck out looking to end the game.
Page 5 of 6 - The Piccini-Cedeno combination worked well in the regional final and it helped Colgan earn a spot in the state title game.
Class 3A state baseball
Colgan 10, Silver Lake 0 (6 innings)
SMC 414 001 — 10 12 0
SLE 000 000 — 0 7 3
Drew Dawson and Ryan Cedeno. Evan Burdiek, Aaron Seele (1), Brock Swartz (4) and Wyatt Moore. WP: Dawson. LP: Burdiek. 2B: Ryan Cedeno, Austin Kratz. HR: Drew Dawson. SF: V.J. Piccini. SB: Nate Grimaldi, Colton Gilbert 2. HBP: Tyler Brown.
Semifinal No. 1
Colgan 3, Wichita Independent 2
SMC 012 000 0 — 3 7 1
WI 200 000 0 — 2 4 2
V.J. Piccini, Christian Cedeno (6) and Ryan Cedeno. Matthew Loveland, Andrew Riedmiller (6) and Tanner Cairns. WP: Piccini (7-1). LP: Loveland. SV: C. Cedeno (2). E: Tully Yoakam; Loveland, Benjamin Strickfaden. 2B: Nate Grimaldi, Colton Gilbert, Austin Kratz. SH: Kratz, R. Cedeno. SB: Yoakam; Garrett Hupman. CS: Shase Williams 2; Yoakam. HBP: Strickfaden, Scott Spiker. LOB: SMC 9, WI 4.
Semifinal No. 2
Page 6 of 6 - Silver Lake 11, Sacred Heart 6
SHK 500 000 1 — 6 10 2
SLE 042 041 X — 11 13 3
WP: Aaron Seele. LP: Justin McCarthy. 2B: Josh Dolan. 3B: Brock Swartz, Tyler Brown. HR: Dalton Dooley.
Third Place Game
Wichita Independent 10, Sacred Heart 8
SHK 000 200 6 — 8 9 6
WI 120 115 X — 10 9 1
WP: Andrew Riedmiller. LP: Blake Jones. SV: Scott Spiker. 2B: Dalton Dooley 2, Jones. 3B: Dooley.