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

Charleston Fighting Squirrels complete dominant run through Senior Babe Ruth state tournament for first title in three years

Sunday, July 16, 2017

(Photo)
Charleston catcher Garrison Keene lifts pitcher Palmer Campbell after winning the 2017 Missouri Senior Babe Ruth state championship Saturday, July 15, 2017, at Hillhouse Park in Charleston, Mo.
(Chris Pobst/Standard Democrat)
CHARLESTON, Mo. -- After a two year absence the Charleston Fighting Squirrels found themselves hoisting the Missouri Senior Babe Ruth state championship plaque once again Saturday night.

Much like the rest of their tournament run, the Squirrels made their championship win look easy, taking down Ultimate Baseball 13-3 in five innings via the mercy rule.

The win gives Charleston its eighth title in the program's 13-year history while booking their 10th trip to the Midwest Plains Regional Tournament in 11 years.

(Photo)
Members of the Charleston Fighting Squirrels dog pile on the mound after winning the 2017 Missouri Senior Babe Ruth state championship Saturday, July 15, 2017, at Hillhouse Park in Charleston, Mo.
(Chris Pobst/Standard Democrat)
"We're back," Squirrels head coach Michael Minner said. "That's kind of our motto recently. Two years ago we snuck in (to regionals) as the second place team and didn't get it done at the state level. Last year we got beat in the state semifinals and didn't get a chance to move on.

"Whenever you sit and don't get an opportunity that cuts your summer really short. Those are extremely fun trips and great experiences for our kids. We hate missing out on stuff like that, so we're really fortunate to have put together a team that is going to get to go back."

Charleston dominated the tournament for the better part of a decade, winning seven state championships in eight years, until the Wayne County Lumberjacks took over the top spot in 2015 in their first of back-to-back state championships.

The Lumberjacks found themselves out of the title picture, however, when Ultimate took them down Saturday afternoon in the tournament semifinals.

(Photo)
Charleston Squirrels' pitcher Palmer Campbell delivers a pitch to an Ultimate Baseball batter during the 2017 Missouri Senior Babe Ruth state championship Saturday, July 15, 2017, at Hillhouse Park in Charleston, Mo.
(Chris Pobst/Standard Democrat)
Charleston's winning formula throughout the tournament remained unchallenged with dominant pitching and an offense that couldn't be slowed down. The Squirrels swatted 16 hits against their counterpart from Kennett scoring five runs in the bottom of the first to set the tone.

Bell City native Cole Nichols led the attack going 4 for 4 with a triple while Greenville standout Trey McDaniel went 3 for 3.

Charleston won five-straight games to earn it's state title, outscoring their opponents 53-7 in the process.

"We're not a team thinking we're going to win games 15-0," Minner said. "We're tailor made to beat you 2-1 and that's the way our approach is going to continue to stay. We don't trick anybody. My dad is sitting in the stands and he's telling a group of men he's sitting with, 'He's going to bunt right here. Or her comes a squeeze.' Everybody knows it's coming. It's just one of those where we do it every year and try to be good at what we do."

Charleston (34-6) scattered seven hits in the first inning alone highlighted by an RBI double by Wyatt Pratt while two bunts from Jason Jarrell and Winston Welker made it 3-0 in a flash.

The Squirrels added five more runs in the bottom of the third to go ahead 10-1 and scored another three in the bottom of the fourth to put the 10-run mercy rule into effect.

"We try to speed the game up," Minner said. "These guys lay down bunts and run like heck out of the box. We hit-and-run, running hard from first to third. We're going to challenge you. We're going to try and get from first to third, then all of the sudden you don't know if we're going to squeeze.

"We'll square to bunt, they'll throw a ball and the next pitch when they think we're bunting they'll hit-and-run. We play the game as fast as we can."

(Photo)
Charleston bat boy Izaac Pursley celebrates with the team after winning the 2017 Missouri Senior Babe Ruth state championship Saturday, July 15, 2017, at Hillhouse Park in Charleston, Mo.
(Chris Pobst/Standard Democrat)
Palmer Campbell, a New Madrid County Central standout, pitched a solid five innings of work to continue Charleston's theme of strong pitching performances over the weekend.

Campbell struck out four, walked two and allowed eight hits -- all of them singles.

"He's just a flat-out competitor," Minner said of Campbell. "There's no one I have more confidence in. The kids were cutting up in the dugout saying he always looks mad. I said, 'yeah, he's always thinking about something, always snarling.' But he's a competitor. He just wants the baseball and wants to be good."

Ultimate Baseball's eight-hit attack was led by Cameron West and Lathan Brooks, who had two hits each. Brady Clark singled and was hit by a pitch to reach base in both plate appearances.

After going down in order in the top of the first, Ultimate Baseball (10-12) set up potential rallies in each of the final four innings despite only producing three runs.

Having already scored a run in the second, Ultimate had runners at the corners with one out only to fall victim to a double play.

Again with a pair of runners on in the third frame, Ultimate saw the inning end scoreless when Squirrel's centerfielder Cole Nichols gunned a runner down at home on a single to end the threat.

They stranded a total of six runners on the contest, including two in the fourth and a runner in the fifth that could have potentially extended the game.

"Every time we started a rally we just turned it to a double play or strike out," Ultimate head coach John French said. "We just couldn't capitalize when we had runners on and we had base runners all throughout the game. That killed us.

(Photo)
Members of the Charleston Fighting Squirrels pose for pictures after winning the 2017 Missouri Senior Babe Ruth state championship Saturday, July 15, 2017, at Hillhouse Park in Charleston, Mo.
(Chris Pobst/Standard Democrat)
"That team over there don't make many mistakes. That's the difference between them and us. They capitalized and we didn't. We made mistakes and they didn't make any."

In a twist, both Charleston and last year's defending champions, Wayne County, will get a regional berth after it was announced earlier this week that Ultimate Baseball couldn't attend no matter their finish at the state tournament.

This left losers of the two semifinal games Saturday playing in a third-place game for a regional trip. The Lumberjacks edged out Charleston's AAA Fighting Squirrel team 7-6 to keep their season alive.

Charleston will face the host team, Junction City, Kan., to open the Midwest Plains Regional Tournament, with a start time of 8 p.m.

Braden Cox will get the start on the mound.

Ultimate 010 02 - 3 8 2

Charleston 505 3x - 13 16 1

WP -- Palmer Campbell. LP -- Andy Roberts. 3B -- Cole Nichols (C). 2B -- Wyatt Pratt (C). Multiple hits -- Ultimate: Cameron West 2-3, Lathan Brooks 2-3. Charleston: Cole Nichols 4-4, Trey McDaniel 3-3, Wyatt Pratt 2-2, Braden Cox 2-3.