Finish the season with best record in Boonville High School history at 24-2 overall
For the second time in its four trips to the Final Four, the Boonville Pirates baseball team had to share third place after the game was called due to rain Saturday at CarShield Field in O’Fallon.
While the Pirates were considered by many to be one of the top teams in the state in Class 4, a 5-3 loss Friday night in the second semifinal against defending state champion Aurora put Boonville in the third place game against Excelsior Springs, who also lost in the first semifinal against St. Mary’s (St. Louis) 6-5.
Aurora went on to win its second straight title by beating St. Mary’s (St. Louis) on Saturday 2-0.
Despite finishing 24-2 on the season, Boonville Pirates baseball coach Fred Smith said it was a hell of a good run.
“Great group of seniors,” Smith said. “Boonville will reload and go again. 24-2 is a pretty good year and I think probably the best part is that inside you know that you probably played the state champ and we went toe to toe with them in a 5-3 ballgame. They had a guy throwing 95-97 and we were in it all the way and even led 3-1 and had our chances. We just didn’t play our best game but at least at the end of the day you know where you stand. Hats off to them, they played a little better than us on that night. Like I said they’ll reload (Boonville) next year because they have a lot of pitching. Some guys will have to step up but that’s what Boonville does.”
Boonville senior Kole Ficken, who had two hits in the semifinal game against Aurora with a solo home run in the first and a two-RBI single in the third, said it’s always disappointing when you lose your last game but that’s baseball.
“This is easily the best season Boonville High School has ever had so I am glad to be a part of it,” Ficken said. “To me Aurora versus Boonville was the state championship game. People can say whatever they want but Boonville and Aurora are the best two teams at state and we should have played each other for the state championship.”
Unfortunately for the Pirates, the Aurora Houn’ Dawgs had their best on the mound for the semifinal game on Friday in Missouri state signee Wyatt Sparks.
While entering the game with 118 strikeouts in 58 innings with an ERA of 0.84, Sparks lived up to all the hype while hitting the radar gun at 95-97 miles per hour with 13 strikeouts.
However the Houn’ Dawgs also didn’t expect for Sparks to give up three runs on the biggest stage of the season.
But as expected, Sparks settled down while retiring the side in four of the seven innings and his teammates did the rest while rallying with four unanswered runs in the final four innings for the 5-3 victory.
“We have nothing to hang our heads about after playing the Class 4 defending state champion and No. 1 team in the state toe to toe,” Smith said. “First of all, hats off to Aurora. I thought when we had Sparks on the ropes for an inning or two he kind of riggled off and did a great job. Again, we didn’t make the plays when we needed to and we worked from behind. We also made more errors than they did and they swung the bat better.”
Aurora out-hit Boonville 8-5 in the game but the hits seemed to come at crucial times.
After a solo home run by senior Kole Ficken to right in the first, Aurora came back and tied the game at 1-all in the top-half of the third on a lead-off double to center by Austin Erickson and a RBI-single to right by Jeremiah Fisher.
Ficken said the home run felt really good.
“Sparks was bringing it so when I made contact with it I knew I hit it good, but his speed along with me making contact with it made it go even further so that just made it that much better,” Ficken said.
Boonville responded with two runs in the bottom half of the second to go up 3-1 but could have had more if not for back to back strikeouts by Sparks to end the inning.
Samuel Wiser led off the inning for Boonville with an infield single to short. Two batters later, Ethan Waibel reached on another infield single to second by diving to first on a close play. Ficken then delivered his second big hit of the ballgame with a two-RBI single up the middle to extend the lead to 3-1.
“That hit was nice, too,” Ficken said. “He threw me a lot of curveballs that at bat after hitting the home run so I knew I just had to say on the ball and try to make good solid contact again, and that’s what I did, I stayed up the middle.”
Unfortunately for the Pirates, the Houn’ Dawgs kept chipping away at the lead while pushing across two in the fourth on back to back home runs by Gage Singer and Wyatt Sparks to tie the game at 3-all. Singer’s home run to right came on a 1-1 pitch by starter Jared Viertel while Sparks crushed a fastball over the left field wall.
The Houn’ Dawgs took control of the game after that while adding one run in the fifth with a little small ball on two bunts to go up 4-3. Then, in the sixth, Aurora tacked on another run on a wild pitch to extend the lead to 5-3.
Boonville had only one runner reach base for the rest of the game when junior catcher Dylan Watson beat out an infield single in the bottom half of the sixth.
Sparks was perfect in the seventh to send the Houn’ Dawgs to their second straight title game.
Sparks picked up the complete game victory for Aurora while Viertel took the loss for Boonville, dropping him to 10-1. While throwing 96 pitches, Sparks struck out 13 batters and gave up three runs on five hits and one walk. Viertel, meanwhile, pitched 5 1/3 innings and allowed five runs on eight hits and two walks while striking out two. Kellen Barnes pitched 1 2/3 innings in relief and walked one while striking out one batter.
Fisher paced all hitters in the game for Aurora with three singles and one RBI. Singer went 2-for-3 with a single, home run and one RBI while Sparks homered and Erickson doubled.
For Boonville, Ficken went 2-for-3 with a single, home run and three RBIs. Ethan Waibel, Dylan Watson and Samuel Wiser each had one single.