Weston High opened the 2023 baseball season by shaking hands with the state champions from 1977 and 1982-84. Now the 2023 edition of Wolves are in position to receive their own acclaim. With a thrilling 5-3, eight inning victory at Converse this past Wednesday in the Division V Quarterfinals, Weston has advanced to the state tournament.
Final Four! Next up for the district 1B co-champion and #7 seed Wolves, now 17-14 on the year, is #3 Pitkin (18-6), the second place team in district 4B. The Division V semi-final contest will be played at McMurray Park in Sulphur. Game time is set for 11:00am on May 9th on Field 41. At the same time on Field 40, defending state champion and #1 seed Choudrant will play #5 Anacoco in the other semifinal contest, with the winners slated to battle for the title on May 12th.
Third time a charm! The past two years Weston had been in the exact same position of needing one win to make it to the state tourney. This time around the Wolves got over the “hump” to earn their first state tournament trip in nearly 30 years.
Overcoming Adversity! It wasn’t easy. Then again at this stage it isn’t supposed to be. It is hard enough to get to state in under normal circumstances but the adversity the Wolves overcame to earn the trip south deserves mention. It was bad enough that Weston was forced to enter the playoffs without two key contributors, (Braden Theriot and Colton Blundell) both sidelined for the year just prior to the playoffs. Then to make matters worse Weston was behind 3-1 to their nemesis who put them out in the same game last year with just two innings in regulation left to play. Shorthanded and on the short end, Weston refused to die. Digging deep within, the Wolves scored twice in the top of the sixth and then added two more in the top of the 8th inning.
Excellent execution! Sawyer Watkins opened the contest by coming back from an 0-2 count to coax a leadoff walk and then took second on a wild pitch. Bryce Zehr then perfectly executed a bunt placed so well that the Converse pitcher, who realistically didn’t have a shot at throwing Zehr out, threw it away allowing Watkins to score and giving the Wolves an early 1-0 lead.
Falling behind! Tait Henderson, had cruised through the first three innings, allowing only a leadoff single in the bottom of the first inning that was immediately wiped out with a double play. Converse finally broke through with two outs in the bottom of the fourth inning to go up 3-1, putting together a single and a double after two walks.
Breaking Through! Weston had gotten a base runner on in each of the first five innings but other than the first inning run had nothing to show for it. Time was running out. Henderson opened the sixth inning with a walk and moved to third on a Cole Tolar line single to right. Cooper Delaney then did exactly what was needed by hitting a ground ball to second that would score Henderson but got an added benefit when the ball was misplayed giving Weston men on first and second with no outs. Drew Browning took advantage by stroking a single to right field that scored Drew Williams, who had come in to pinch run for Henderson, to knot the game at 3 each.
Scary moment! After the first Converse batter got out in the bottom of the 7th inning, Weston committed their only error of the game that put a runner on second base. A fly out moved the runner to third. That brought up the Converse leadoff batter who had already reached on a hit and a walk. WHS coach Kemp called for an intentional walk. Delaney, who had relieved Henderson in the fifth inning, made the move pay off by striking out the next batter and send the game to extra innings. WHEW!
“Small Ball” Stands Tall! With one out in the top of the 8th inning, Browning took a cut and made contact, barely. The ball went all of about six feet but it just as well as had been hit off the outfield wall as in the attempt to thrown him out at first, the Converse catcher threw it away allowing the hustling Browning to make it all the way to third. Blaine Graham followed by coaxing a walk. Once again, Kemp played the percentages and called for a bunt. Once again it was executed perfectly as Henderson laid it down and beat it out for a single that scored Browning and advanced Graham to third. Jacob Gill followed with a fly out to center to score Graham and give Weston the 5-3 lead.
Total team effort! Seven Wolves got one hit apiece, All singles and only a few of them got out of the infield. Five scored one run each. There were no “big blasts.” No one player who “stole the show.” Time and again the balance of the contest rode on the tremendous savvy of Coach Kemp and his staff who bravely called on the players to come through in crucial moments. Each time they did.
In retrospect the way the contest was played it had a fitting end. In a game where failing to execute meant certain defeat, it was several perfectly placed batted balls that never got past the pitchers mound that made the difference. It’s not “new math” but in this case 20 feet of ground balls equals a 200 mile road trip.
Destination – STATE TOURNAMENT BOUND!
|#7 Weston (17-13)||1||0||0||0||0||2||0||2||5||7||1|
|#2 Converse (23-6)||0||0||0||3||0||0||0||0||3||4||4|
2B – Durr (CHS), Hungerford (CHS)
RBI – Durr 2 (CHS), Delaney (WHS), Browning (WHS), Henderson (WHS), Gill (WHS), Craig (CHS)
RS – Watkins (WHS), Henderson (WHS), Browning (WHS), Graham (WHS), Williams (WHS), Hungerford (CHS), Mitchell (CHS), Smith (CHS)
(photos courtesy of Sasselynn Shenanigans)
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One thought on “State Tourney Bound! Weston beats Converse in Division V quarterfinals”
As I read this article my heart pound, I could hear the fans and players as if I was actually setting in the stands watching all of the excitement. You see as a grandparent our hearts are with our Grandchildren and their excitement and joy is ours as well. Jacob Gill is my Grandson and I am so proud of him.
The other young men on his team I do not know personally; however through your article I visualize the deep connection between the players and their coaches.
These young men show what TEAM really means.
Congratulations Weston Wolves!!!