[Nameplate] Fair ~ 93°F  
Heat Advisory
Thursday, July 20, 2017

Charleston Fighting Squirrels punch ticket to tonight's Senior Babe Ruth state final

Saturday, July 15, 2017

(Photo)
Charleston's Garrison Keene gets a fist bump after scoring a run in the fourth inning against Charleston AAA during a semifinal of the Missouri Senior Babe Ruth state tournament Saturday, July 15, 2017, at Hillhouse Park in Charleston, Mo.
(Chris Pobst/Standard Democrat)
CHARLESTON, Mo. -- Saturday's lunchtime win for the Charleston Fighting Squirrels did two things.

It vaulted them into the Missouri Senior Babe Ruth state tournament championship game later in the evening and sent the Squirrels back to the Midwest Plains Regional.

Behind a dominant pitching effort from Trey McDaniel and an offense that continues to roll, the Squirrels defeated Charleston's AAA, 19U squad 10-0 in six innings.

(Photo)
Charleston Squirrels' pitcher Trey McDaniel delivers a pitch to a Charleston AAA batter during a semifinal of the Missouri Senior Babe Ruth state tournament Saturday, July 15, 2017, at Hillhouse Park in Charleston, Mo.
(Chris Pobst/Standard Democrat)
The Squirrels, who lost in the semifinals of last year's state tournament, will once again make the trip to their regional tournament for the 10th time in 11 years.

"We're back, baby," Charleston coach Michael Minner said. "After a year off, we like the regional. We like going and we like the experience for the kids. Our goal was to go to the World Series and win the World Series so now we're one step closer. Getting a chance to play for a World Series is important to us."

Minner made it well known that McDaniel was going to get the start Saturday morning. With a regional berth on the line, the Squirrels' top arm on a team filled with hurlers was a no-brainer for the longtime manager.

The Greenville native ran into a small jam in the first inning after an infield error and a single from Nick Allred that followed, but quickly calmed the storm. After Allred's hit, McDaniel struck out the next six batters he faced including seven of the next eight. Only two more runners reached safely the rest of the way and those were due to errors in the field.

"We've got numerous guys that when their on the mound we expect to win," Minner said. "I always remember a Chaffee team back in the day when they had Matt Stroup. They knew they were going to win when Matt Stroup pitched. We know we're going to win when Trey McDaniel takes the mound. Same could be said about Braden Cox, Austin Hicks and so on. We had the right guy on the mound today to advance."

(Photo)
Charleston Squirrels' bat boy Izaac Pursley takes a bat back to the dugout during a semifinal of the Missouri Senior Babe Ruth state tournament Saturday, July 15, 2017, at Hillhouse Park in Charleston, Mo.
(Chris Pobst/Standard Democrat)
McDaniel, almost toying opposing hitters with his curveball in the later innings, finished with 13 strikeouts and allowed just one hit.

"He's usually really solid and he was solid again today," Squirrels catcher Garrison Keene said. "We used a lot more offspeed than we usually do, but he was feeling it so we went with the flow. It worked."

While McDaniel quickly dealt with AAA's batting order, Charleston's offense was just as powerful.

They took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the third inning and then exploded for five runs in the fourth behind five singles off of AAA starter Alex Guzman.

Hits from Garrison Keene, Cole Nichols and Wyatt Pratt all drove in runs, as did a sacrifice fly from Ty Householder to make it 6-0 in a flash.

The Squirrels (33-6) put the game away and booked their ticket for Saturday's finale with a four-run sixth inning to trigger the 10-run mercy rule.

"We looked solid all the way around," Keene said. "I think the most important thing is we don't lose our edge even when we get up by six or seven runs. We stay in the game, everybody is focused and everybody is talking about the game. Nobody gets lackadaisical."

(Photo)
Charleston Squirrels' catcher Garrison Keene catches a pop fly against Charleston AAA during a semifinal of the Missouri Senior Babe Ruth state tournament Saturday, July 15, 2017, at Hillhouse Park in Charleston, Mo.
(Chris Pobst/Standard Democrat)
Keene led the Squirrels' offensive attack going 3 for 3 with two RBIs and three runs scored. And although the Squirrels bolster, arguably, their deepest and best pitching staff they've ever had, their offense is just as potent.

In four games the Squirrels have outscored opponents 40-4 with a barrage of big innings and big hits exactly when they need them.

"The biggest part of that is our approach at the plate," Keene said. "We don't chase a lot of bad pitches. We stay in the game, know what the situation is and know what our job is when we get to the plate. We just try to do our best once we get to the plate to do that job."

The Squirrels will take on either Ultimate Baseball or the two-time defending state champion Wayne County Lumberjacks Saturday night at 7:30 p.m., in the championship game.

It's been two years since the Squirrels last won a Babe Ruth state championship.

"We haven't put one on the wall in a while," Minner said. "We need to change our fate and get that job done tonight."

The Midwest Plains Regional begins July 20-25 in Junction City, Kan.

AAA 000 000 -- 0 1 4

Squirrels 001 504 -- 10 11 3

WP -- Trey McDaniel. LP -- Alex Guzman. 2B -- Braden Cox (S), Dylan Baugh (S). Multiple hitters: Squirrels -- Cox 3-4, Wyatt Pratt 2-3, Garrison Keene 3-3.