OTTAWA — With no zone or state title to strive for in 2020, the summer Legion season has been dedicated to improving for the A Iola Indians. Sunday was the exclamation point on that goal.
Despite being short-handed, the Indians defeated the 17u Topeka Kansas Senators 17-8 to win the Jim Allen Memorial Wood Bat tournament.
The title is Iola’s third straight tournament triumph, leaving head coach John Taylor with nothing but praise for his Indians.
“At the beginning of the year we had kids from about four different teams from the year before, and they were still kind of about their old teams because they had played together for so long,” Taylor said. “Now, this is definitely a team. They all get along great, heads are together, and that is a big part of winning games.”
The Indians opened the four-team tournament against Ottawa in game 1 of pool play. An RBI from Ryker Curry and two more from Carter Hutton gave Iola three runs in the top of the first. The Indians led 3-1 entering the second.
Eli Adams featured on the mound, giving up four hits and five runs in his five-inning stint.
The Indians extended their lead to 5-1 courtesy of RBIs from Landon Weide and TJ Taylor. Ottawa chipped away at Iola’s lead to come within one after the fifth.
Luckily for the Indians, they captured two insurance runs in the sixth to hold on for the 7-5 win due to the 1-hour-45-minute time limit per game.
GAME 2 was a prelude of the championship game, with the Senators striking first in the third inning to take a 2-0 lead. The Indians came within one after a sacrifice fly from Hutton to score Curry in the fourth, but that would be the closest Iola came.
The Senators added four more runs in the fifth, taking a 6-1 lead with the Indians having two more chances at the plate. Iola pulled four runs back in the sixth, but it was too little too late as time prevented a seventh inning, letting the Senators hold on for the 6-5 victory.
After a 1-1 Saturday, the Indians planned on finishing Sunday with perfection. The final game of pool play came against Garnett, with a spot in the championship game on the line.
Curry’s arm was crucial for the Indians, tossing a scoreless five innings while collecting 11 strikeouts. Usually on the senior Legion squad, Taylor highlights it is a massive boost to the Indians’ morale when Curry features for the junior team.
“One of the comments from the kids was ‘when Ryker is on the mound, I can relax in the field,’” Taylor said. “They feel good about what he is going to do up there, and enjoy having him around.”
With Curry keeping things in check, all Iola needed was a run. That run came in the third, with Avery Blaufuss hitting his way into a fielder’s choice which allowed Adams to score. The Indians added another run in the sixth off an RBI from Drake DeLaTorre to help claim the 2-0 win.
After a nail-biting game on Saturday versus the Senators, the championship game was anticlimactic. Iola’s bats showed up in style, scoring 13 runs in the first two innings of the game. From the start, it seemed Iola was destined for a run-rule victory.
Trey Sommer led the way with four RBIs, followed by Gavin Page with three. Hutton and Adams each finished with two, along with Blaufuss, DeLaTorre, and Weide each adding one. The Indians totaled 12 hits, turning into 17 runs.
“We didn’t hit well in three of the four games, and I was hoping we were due, and we were,” Taylor said.
Trevor Church earned the win, pitching the first 2 1/3 innings, allowing two hits and zero runs. Sommer relieved Church in the third, and ran into some trouble, allowing four hits which would turn into six runs.
Still, Iola was never threatened, and finished the Senators off in five innings to claim the Jim Allen Memorial Wood Bat tournament title. The Indians seek to make it four straight tournament wins in a row next weekend.
“We have one tournament left next weekend in Garnett, and it is an even bigger tournament. There are 15 teams, and their goal is to win it,” Taylor said. “It will have a lot of teams we haven’t seen yet, so it will be a true test.”
Before the weekend’s tournament, Iola will travel to Garnett on Monday and host Pittsburg on Tuesday, with first pitch for both doubleheaders scheduled for 6 p.m.