Van-Far head baseball coach Wes Rowden knew his team’s Class 2 State Sectional match-up with a .500 St. Vincent squad was going to be tough.
After all, the Indians were having to travel more than three hours to Perryville, Mo. to battle a team that had defeated a defending Class 2 state champion in districts.
Through four innings, Van-Far was up 2-1 in its first ever state playoff game.
Unfortunately, St. Vincent’s nine-run, fifth inning rally was too much to overcome in a 15-5 loss that ended their season.
After press time, St. Vincent won their next game and had a Final Four date with Canton.
“There is an old saying, its not how you start, but how you finish,” said Van-Far head coach Wes Rowden. “That definitely held true today. We started really well, played really well the first four innings and even the start of the fifth, but after one error with one out in the fifth, the wheels came off and we just could not stop the bleeding.”
Van-Far took a 1-0 lead in the first inning as Logan Wilson’s double was followed by Treyson Culwell’s RBI single that plated Wilson.
The Indians went up 2-0 in the top of the fourth inning. Colten Jensen reached base on a strike three pitch in the dirt. After two wild pitches, he scored on Caden Wilburn’s infield out.
St. Vincent scored their first run in the bottom half of the inning.
Van-Far added two more runs in the top of the fifth for a 4-1 lead.
On a ball hit by Nathan Beatty, the pitcher’s errant throw into centerfield scored Treyson Culwell.
Brayden McMillen later scored on Jensen’s safety squeeze bunt.
Pitcher Josh Hodde, who had not pitched since April 13, had solid control for the first four innings. Things fell apart unfortunately in the fifth inning.
St. Vincent took advantage of two errors and added a three-run home run in the big nine run inning.
“I noticed he started to pitch more in the upper part of the strike zone in the fourth, and that is a sign of fatigue,” Rowden noted. “I don’t know if it was that or a combination it seemed the strike zone got a bit smaller as well or both. Plus, you throw a couple of errors in there as well and really that was about all it took for St. Vincent to get rolling. I will hand it to them, they had a good lineup and a good hitting ball club 1-9. Not many bloop singles; they hit some ropes.”
The Indians did get a run back in their next at-bat as Hodde had a solo home run to right field.
St. Vincent responded with a five-run, sixth inning to win the game by 10 runs.
Treyson Culwell finished with three hits, one RBI, and one run scored. Caden Wilburn, Wilson, Hodde, and McMillen each had hits.
Hodde tossed 4 1/3 innings on the mound and allowed six hits, one earned run, had eight strikeouts, and one walk.
“If you take out five to seven innings of our season, we really had a pretty decent year. There were about seven innings over that period where we gave up eight or more runs. Some of that is pitching, some of it was errors we committed. You take those innings out we really had a good year over all. This is a young team.”
The loss meant it was the final game for seniors Brayden McMillen and Cameron Barsé.
“Mr. Utility who played every position this year at least one time,” Rowden said about McMillen. “When we changed pitchers I knew he could fill any spot and that really is a big relief to know you have a player that can fill in whereever you want him to. Cameron Barsé, who has caught for us the last three years, he did a nice job this year. His blocking improved tremendously and his ability to call a game was also an advantage, as I let him call most of the pitches and he did a great job at that. I have coached both boys for four years and they were a lot of fun to coach and they a quality young men. I wish them the best in the future.”
A young team that started seven underclassmen will return next year.
“They have all of their pitchers back for next year so they really have a lot to look forward to next year,” Rowden noted. “If their arms get stronger, and their hitting becomes more consistent, they could have an outstanding season next year. I wish them all the best next year.”
For Rowden, it is his final game as coach of the Indians as he is now retired.
“I also would like that take this time to thank all of my players over the years here at Van-Far for playing for me, girls as well as boys, basketball, and softball as well as baseball,” Rowden said. “I have some very strong and fond memories. As a coach you develop some strong relationships that last a life time and I have done that here. I am appreciative to all the young people who played for me, their parents who always supported them, and to all the people who supported our program. I am very thankful. I hope and pray the very best for all of you.”