“One of the hardest things to do is to beat a team three times in a row,” Rock Creek head coach Shane Sieben said minutes before his Mustangs took the field in the 4A East Regional championship game against cross county rival Wamego. It would be the third meeting between the two teams this season, with Rock Creek taking the first two games in early April.
Rock Creek advanced to the championship game with a first-round win over Coffeyville-Field Kindley. Ryker Zoeller put together a perfect game on the mound, with no runs on no hits and nine K’s in the 10-0 shutout. The Mustangs amassed ten hits in the game, including a triple by Maddox Ibarra and doubles from Casey McCarn, Brandon Krainbill, and Daegen Vinduska.
Wamego reached the title game by sneaking past Tonganoxie 8-7. It was a back-and-forth affair, with three lead changes in the ballgame. In the bottom of the seventh inning, with two outs, Tonganoxie pitcher Trevor McGraw committed a balk, advancing Wamego’s Dawson Tajchman to the plate for the win.
Wamego took an early 1-0 lead over Rock Creek in the championship, when Tajchman singled on a line drive, scoring Chase Cottam. Rock Creek would respond with runs in the second and third.
In the fifth inning, with Rock Creek up 2-1, Wamego’s pitching crew began to falter. Lane Jeanneret hit Logan Sturdy and walked JT Ross to put runners on first and second. He was relieved by Hayden Oviatt, who proceeded to walk Krainbill and hit Drew Becker to hand the Mustangs a free run. Oviatt would walk in another run before being replaced by Cody Mayer. After a sac fly by McCarn scored another run, Mayer was able to get out of the inning but not before Rock Creek had opened up a 5-1 advantage. The Mustangs were able to hang onto the lead to pick up the win and a trip to Salina for the 4A State Tournament.
Vinduska got the win for the Mustangs, giving up one run on seven hits and striking out four over 6.1 innings of work. Dalton Whitworth got the save, retiring the final two batters. Mayer took the loss for Wamego.
The Red Raiders outhit Rock Creek seven to three but couldn’t capitalize as runners were stranded by the stifling defense of the Mustangs. Cottam was 2-4 with a double, Tajchman was 2-4, Nathaniel Gallagher was 2-3, and Thomas McIntyre was 1-2.
Becker led the way at the plate for the Mustangs, going 1-2 with a double. Krainbill, and Vinduska also had hits in the game.
In his tenure at Rock Creek, Sieben has taken his team to state every year except last year, and he was excited to make it back again.
“It’s always awesome for the kids to experience it,” Sieben said. “They put a ton of work into it, and it’s always special no matter how many times it’s happened.”
“Our pitching was outstanding,” Sieben continued. “Had the perfect game there with Ryker, and Daegen didn’t have his best stuff tonight, but he fought through. He was tough, man—that’s the biggest thing.”
“This team is resilient,” Sieben concluded.” It’s the second-best regular season record in school history, and now they’ve earned the right to play at state. It’s an unbelievable group of seniors, unbelievable team, and I’m just excited to get to practice with them for another week.”
With the win, Rock Creek moves to 21-1 on the season, as they head to Salina’s Dean Evans Stadium on May 25-26 for the 4A State Tournament