The magical run for the Festus Tigers Varsity Baseball team continued on Saturday as they rolled through the St. Francis Borgia Knights to claim the first State Championship in program history. After slightly edging out Fort Zumwalt South 2-0 in the Semis, the Tigers decided to go big before they went home in this one.
The Big Cats put up eight runs and used some stellar pitching from starter Mason Schirmer to keep the Knights at bay and bring home the ultimate prize with an 8-1 victory. It wasn’t a nail-biter, but it was, in the purest form, exactly what these young men worked so hard all year to achieve. I’m sure all of these athletes will take a dominant victory over a little extra drama every time.
The championship game started out with the Tigers getting to work right away on offense. A walk and a single to begin the top of the first led to a Schirmer RBI base-knock that gave Festus a 1-0 lead. The Knights came back with a run of their own in the bottom of the second, but that was as close as this game would get.
Knotted at one apiece in the fourth inning, Festus cracked the game wide open with the first three runners reaching base. Jackson Gross and Wyatt Huskey both got on via singles and then Brayden Montgomery reached on an error to load the bases. In stepped Brady Nolen, and the hard-hitting centerfielder smoked one to right to drive in a pair and regain the lead. An RBI groundout by Jeremiah Cunningham tacked on another run, and with the three-spot, the Tigers suddenly had a 4-1 lead.
Spoiler alert: that lead would remain safely in their control for the duration.
A lot of that had to do with Schirmer, who was sharp on then mound with 5.2 innings of one run ball. He allowed six hits and three walks, but was able to successfully get out of jams by inducing ground balls, keeping hitters off balance and picking up the big strikeout when he needed it.
The Tigers added the fifth run of the game in the top of the fifth inning on a Huskey RBI groundout, and then struck for two more in the following inning. Hayden Bates got in on the hit parade and drove in one with a well-struck ball to right before Tyler Bizzle drove him home with a shot to center. Mark it down, 7-1 Tigers.
Festus would strike for one more in the top of the final inning on Nolen’s third hit of the game to drive in Gross. Nate Moore, the hero from the opening round of the tournament, came on in relief of Schirmer and slammed the door on the Knights. He gave up a single to the final batter of the game, but the runner was gunned down at second for the 21st out and the 1st State Championship Title.
The Tigers mobbed the field in celebration with frenzied joy as the dream had finally become a reality.
Nolen had an unbelievable game with three hits in four trips and three RBI, and Bizzle had a trio of singles as well and drove in one. Schirmer got the win and also went 2-for-4 with a ribbie, while Gross, Huskey and Cunningham joined him in the two-hit department.
It was a well executed game in all regards and capped off a truly remarkable season for these talented young men. The Tigers finished the year 27-8 and won their last nine straight games to bring home the Holy Grail of trophies.
A balanced and deep lineup, and a core of dominant starters emerged this season, and despite some bumps in the road early on, Festus put together what can only be described as a clutch and elite baseball team.
Congratulations to all the players and coaches on a miracle season. You all deserve it and it was a very exciting ride.