By Harv Antle
OZARK – The Licking Wildcats claimed the Class 3 State Baseball Championship on Thursday at Sky Bacon Stadium in Ozark with a 3-1 victory over the South Callaway Bulldogs.
Licking opened the scoring in the second when Kannon Buckner was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded that scored Keyton Cook. Cole Wallace followed with a line drive to right field that scored Kellar Davis and Garrett Gorman.
The three-run lead was more than enough for Davis. The junior right-hander went the distance for the win, scattering five hits over seven innings with eight strikeouts.
The Bulldogs used a pair of singles and an error in the fourth inning to score their only run. South Callaway threatened in the third inning with one out and a runner at first, but Wallace’s sliding catch at the warning track in left center denied Jacob Martin’s bid for extra bases.
Wallace finished the day with a 2-for-4 performance at the plate that included two RBIs. Malachi Antle went 1-for-3 for Licking.
Clinging to a 3-1 lead in the bottom of the seventh, Davis closed out South Callaway in fashion with a pair of strikeouts before inducing a fly out to Wallace to end the game and make the Wildcats state champions.
The title was the third in school history and the first since 1989. Licking won back-to-back state championships in 1988-89.
Licking ends the spring with a record of 27-6. The Wildcats’ combined fall and spring record was 48-9 and they were crowned Frisco League Tournament Champs, Frisco League Champs, Class 3 District 9 Champs, and Class 3 State Champs.
In the semifinals of the state tournament at Ozark, the Licking Wildcats defeated the Barstow Knights on Wednesday 4-1 and advanced to the championship game.
Barstow scored the game’s first run in the top of the first inning, but Licking starter Keyton Cook avoided further damage and stranded two runners to get out of the inning. Cook settled in and was unscored upon through the sixth before turning the game over to Rusty Buckner in the seventh.
The shutout frames that Cook posted allowed the Wildcat offense to answer the early Barstow tally. Kellar Davis doubled in Silas Antle in the second inning to tie the game, and Garrett Gorman’s RBI plated Davis to put Licking in front 2-1.
Cook singled in the fifth for the Wildcats and Davis reached on an error. Cole Wallace singled in Cook and Keyton Rinne’s RBI delivered Davis to push Licking’s lead to 4-1.
Buckner came on in the seventh to close the game for Licking. The junior worked a 1-2-3 inning in quick fashion to end the game and send Licking to its first championship game appearance since 1994.
Wallace was 1-for-3 for the Licking with an RBI while Keyton Rinne recorded a single, a walk, and an RBI. Cook singled and scored, Davis scored twice and singled in a run, and Garrett Gorman knocked in a run.
Photos by Shari Harris
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