CHAMPS

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Sports

May 25, 2018 - 11:00 PM

SALINA — Ethan Tavarez knew exactly what he wanted after Iola baseball clinched its first-ever state championship. In fact, it hit him even before the bigness of the moment did.

“My first thought was, ‘Where’s the dog pile?’” Tavarez said. “And as soon as I saw where everybody was, I just took off running. There were so many emotions going through my body. I was just happy that we won. We didn’t quit and neither did (Bishop Ward). They were a good solid team.”

That’s where all of the Mustangs, including head coach Mark Percy and assistant Ryan Latta, converted, a few feet to the right of the pitcher’s mound.

A ball of happiness and humanity celebrated Friday’s 11-6 victory over Bishop Ward in the 4A-II State Championship game at Dean Evans Stadium in Salina, holding aloft the newly acquired brown, Kansas-shaped state championship plaque.

It was Iola first state title since the Iola’s Fillies basketball team brought home hardware back in 2006. It’s the school’s fifth team title overall.

The Mustang baseball team has made the big show several times including a second place finish 2013. But this time, the thrill of victory belonged to the blue and gold clad Mustangs.

“I’ve played for some state titles before but it always seemed that we placed second,” Percy said. “This right here is hard to come by. You’ve got to grind and our kids do that. Gosh dang! I just can’t say enough about them.”

Sixth-seeded Bishop Ward brought all of the pop that the Mustangs could handle. The hard-hitting Cyclones had all the talent that comes with being a private school in a metropolitan area. In the two game of the tournament prior, Bishop Ward powered their way through, out-hitting any level of pitching that dare cross them.

Against two of the Mustangs best pitchers — sophomore Cal Leonard who threw the first two innings and senior Isaac Vink who finished out the final five — Bishop Ward scratched out six runs (five earned) on nine hits and three walks.

“We’ve never played a team that can hit as well as they can,” Tavarez said. “Every kid on that lineup can stroke the ball. But our defense was able to make it so they couldn’t hurt us as bad. Our defense played its best game of the year.”

Vink took over in the third with a 6-1 lead and coughed up four runs. He gave up another an inning later.

But, once he settled, Vink honed in and threw three straight scoreless innings and allowed just two hits.

“Isaac wanted the ball and we stayed with him,” Percy said. “He got it done. He did a heck of a job. At the end of the game, he was locked in and feeling it.”

“If you get behind in the count, they were going to get a base hit,” Vink said. “In the first inning that I came into pitch, they got four off of me. But I had to settle in and once I did I was OK. They’re good hitters.”

Offensively, the Mustangs smelled blood in the water early and kept the pressure going. The Cyclones exhausted their pitching in a back-and-forth battle versus Parsons in the semifinal earlier in the day.

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