Thomas More Prep-Marian junior Chase Werth experienced ecstasy and agony in a span of just a few seconds Wednesday at the TMP Monarch Complex.
The ecstasy — which came first and will last longer — started when he saw the home plate umpire call a third strike on a Hugoton batter, giving the Monarchs a 12-7 win in the regional final and the trip to state that comes along with a regional championship.
“It was awesome. It was unreal,” Werth said. “It’s not like anything else, just adrenaline, really.”
The agony, hopefully a more fleeting feeling, came when he was tackled to the ground where he lay as his teammates piled on top one-by-one. The last Monarch to the pile, outfielder Trenton Mayo, seemed to take delight in getting a little extra hang time before landing on top of his teammates.
“I was at the very bottom of the dog pile,” Werth said, still holding the ball that was used for the final pitch.
“(It’s) not a good (feeling), but still a good one.”
The third-seeded Monarchs used sizzling hot bats to take down Lakin, the No. 2 seed, 15-4 in the first game of the day. A 12-7 win over the Eagles got the Monarchs back to state.
TMP hasn’t scored 27 runs on 33 hits in a day this year, let alone in an environment where its season was on the line.
“We preach and drill it into their heads to hunt that fastball, and they did a really good job of it tonight. Both teams’ arms were throwing a lot of fastballs, which plays into exactly what we’re after,” TMP coach Dustin Washburn said.
“We put a lot of good swings on it tonight.”
No Monarch consistently put better swings on the ball than junior Adam Gottschalk. He went 3 for 4 with six RBI from the six hole against Lakin. The junior added two more hits and four more RBI in the late game. The fact that all but one of his six hits were singles seems to reflect a fundamental approach at the plate.
“Coach just tells me to fix mechanics, so I work on that,” Gottschalk said. “That pretty much deals with it, I guess.”
Gottschalk first RBI of the day came in his first trip to the plate. After a pair of Lakin errors plated a pair of TMP runs in the top of the first, Gottschalk singled in starting pitcher Cole Zimmerman. Gottschalk came around to score when a fly ball of Luke Ruder’s bat, ricocheted off the face of the Broncs’ centerfielder, allowing Gottschalk to score from first. Ruder scored on a wild pitch to make it 5-0 before the Broncs came to bat.
Zimmerman walked a pair of batters in the bottom half before Logan Gugelmeyer crushed a three-run homer over the wall in left-center. The TMP starter was sharp from that point forward, however.
“It usually takes him an inning or two to settle in,” Washburn said. “When he does, he’s really good.”
A RBI double to the gap off Werth’s bat plated another TMP run in the fourth before Zimmerman plated another run with a well executed bunt on a squeeze play. Gottschalk drove in two more runs later in the inning, making it 9-3.
A two-out triple by Lakin catcher Dawsen Shalberg in the fifth set up the only other run scored on Zimmerman. The TMP pitcher picked up the win after scattering seven hits and four runs in 6.1 innings. He walked two but struck out 11.
“Cole is excellent on the mound,” Gottschalk said. “I don’t even know what to say, honestly. That kid pitches his heart out every game.”
After TMP added six more in the top of the seventh, including Gottschalk’s three-run double and a Little League home run by Gavin Schumacher, Mayo got the final two outs to see TMP onto the championship game.
Tate Garcia, Creighton Renz and Schumacher joined Gottschalk with three hits in the semifinal, while Werth and Ruder both hit safely twice, as the Monarchs racked up 19 hits.
“We don’t have any holes in our lineup,” Washburn said. “One through nine, we’ve got guys that can swing it, which at this level, isn’t seen very often. We like our lineup.”
The Monarchs played the championship game as the home team after Hugoton knocked off top-seeded Ellsworth in Wednesday’s first game. TMP again jumped out to an early lead.
Garcia, TMP’s starter in the final, worked a 1-2-3 top of the first before a two-run triple by Werth opened the scoring. Renz scored Werth with a single before scoring on a wild pitch to give TMP a 4-0 lead to start the second.
The Eagles used a six-run second to take a lead through 1.5 innings, however. A pair of singles led off the inning before Garcia hit the third batter of the inning. Two more singles cut the TMP lead to one before Garcia recorded an out. A triple gave Hugoton a 5-4 lead before a single drove in Hugoton’s sixth run of the second.
The Monarchs were able to take a lead to the third after Garcia singled in Mayo. Renz drove in Garcia with a single to left before Zimmerman gave TMP a 7-6 lead with a sacrifice fly.
The TMP starter got back on track with a scoreless third and helped his cause with a run-scoring sacrifice fly in the bottom half.
Garcia retired the Eagles in order in the fourth before Gottschalk made it 9-6 with an RBI single in the bottom half.
The Monarchs took that lead to the sixth after Garcia escaped a bases-loaded spot in the fifth.
Werth came on with the bases loaded and no outs in the sixth but limited the damages to a run before getting a pair of pop ups and a flyout to center.
An Eston Brown RBI double and a two-run single by Gottschalk helped TMP take a 12-7 lead to the seventh when Werth worked a 1-2-3 frame, highlighted by consecutive strikeouts to end the game.
Before Werth had time to brace for impact, he was swarmed by teammates in a celebration befitting a trip to state.
“It’s probably one of the best feelings in the world, honestly,” Gottschalk said. “We’ve been just practicing, doing what we can, to make it to this moment all year.”
TMP will take a 13-8 record into state. While that mark won’t earn the Monarchs a top seed in Manhattan, that doesn’t seem to bother the Monarchs.
“The first day of practice I told them we’ll play anybody anywhere at any time. I’ll stand by that,” Washburn said.
“Whoever they tell us we’re playing, we’ll go out there, run nine guys out and see if we can take care of business.”