All season Monroe was dominant.
The Dragons (23-2) scored more runs than any team in the 1A/2A classification and won games by over 10 runs 16 times this season. And last Friday it was North Douglas (22-6) going on the road to face this dominant team.
“When confidence grows, you don’t care who you’re going to play,” said North Douglas head coach Jeff Davis of his team after the game. “Otherwise you’re scared to come up here. And we’re not, I don’t think we’re scared of anybody right now. We’re playing really well.”
The Warriors turned that confidence into high-powered offense and strong pitching as it was North Douglas pulling off a state quarterfinals upset over Monroe with a 12-3 victory.
Wasting no time, North Douglas, capitalizing on Monroe errors, put a run on the board in the first inning. The Dragons answered right back with a run of their own in the first while putting on a hitting display as each batter put the ball in play.
“First inning, it bothered me a little bit but I realized that I have defense behind me, they can make plays for me and I don’t have to strike everybody out,” said North Douglas pitcher Brian Erickson. “As long as I throw strikes and get the ball in play, our defense can do the job and we can just do what we did. And that momentum carried to our side and we started scoring runs and making plays.”
Erickson gave up just three hits on the day as he struck out four and walked two. He pitched for 6 1/3 inning in order to make sure he was under the pitch count so that he would be able to pitch on the upcoming Tuesday semifinal.
While Erickson was holding down the Monroe bats, it was the North Douglas hitting that sprung to life. The Warriors finished with 12 hits in the game with contributions from up and down the roster.
“Well, the old saying is hitting is contagious. And the middle of our lineup has been swinging it pretty well the last two weeks but we’ve told these guys all along that they’re capable, top to bottom, of getting the ball in play and making things happen,” said Davis.
Cal Parks went 2-for-4, Wyatt Beckham was 2-for-5 and three RBIs while Koldan Frieze was 1-for-two with three walks and three runs. Leading the way for the Warriors was lead-off Tyler Kallinger who went 3-for-4 and scored four runs.
“The main point for the last week has been hitting because we haven’t really collectively hit good as a group. Like put everything together. That’s what we practiced all week and we came through,” said Kallinger. “We always try to attack. First pitch, fastball and that’s what we’re waiting on and we saw quite a bit of those and jumped on them today.”
After adding a pair of runs in the third inning, North Douglas poured it on in the fourth as they took advantage of the Monroe pitching change and scored three more runs as they hit through the lineup.
It was a similar story in the sixth inning as the team capitalized on multiple bases loaded situations. The Warriors continued to put the ball in play and capitalized on errors and aggressive base-running.
“We took some chances but when you’re ahead you can put the pressure on the other guys. And we made them do things that I’m sure they’re not accustomed to do because, you know -- we’ve benefitted from, and no disrespect to them, but playing some pretty good teams in our league,” said Rice.
With the win, the Warriors are headed to their first baseball semifinal since 1995.
“It’s crazy. I had never imagined we would be doing this,” said Beckham. “It’s awesome to play another day with these kids. I couldn’t be any happier.”