Veritas baseball upends St. Mary’s for KCAA tournament title

photo by: Chris Duderstadt

Veritas Christian's Michael Hull scores on a passed ball during the Eagles' 12-5 win over St. Mary's in the KCAA tournament title game on Saturday at Ice Field in the Holcom Sports Complex.

As the No. 1 seed in the KCAA baseball tournament, Trent Flory’s Veritas Christian squad was champing at the bit to win the Eagles’ second state title in their program’s brief history on Saturday at Ice Field in the Holcom Sports Complex.

The Eagles rolled to a 17-1 win over Wichita Home School in the semifinals on Saturday morning before powering past St. Mary’s Academy, 12-5, in the 5 p.m. title game to achieve their goal. While the Eagles claimed their second state crown, it almost felt like it was the first if you ask Flory.

“The first year we had a team, we won the title because we got rained out and we had the better record of the teams in the league. It was great, but the next two years we lost both times in the championship game in close games,” Flory said. “So we’ve been wanting this for a long time. We talk about it a lot during the season and we finally got it done.”

Flory changed things up with his lineup by flip-flopping Rondre Diederich and Draven Webb in the No. 4 to No. 5 holes, and it paid off in a big way. Even though Diederich was moved out of the clean-up spot, he it didn’t seem like it with Webb and company getting on base in front of him.

Diederich came up with the bases loaded in the third and fifth innings, and cashed in on both occasions. The Veritas junior gave the Eagles their first lead in the third with a two-run single. Another run scored on the play due to an error, which also allowed Diederich to move to second.

“That was huge. And Draven before him getting on base with a great at-bat,” Flory said. “He was fighting off fouls balls. He got on base and he walked. He did that a couple of times with great at-bats. Rondre comes up behind him and gets the job done.”

The Crusaders countered with single runs in the fourth and fifth to pull even at 4-4, but it didn’t stay tied for long. Diederich came through in the clutch again in the bottom of the fifth with another two-RBI single. The Eagles were off and running after that, as they added five more in the seventh to all but put the Crusaders away.

“It’s just a blessing. We’ve worked really hard,” Diederich said. “The team chemistry we had kept the energy up. That just led us to connect the hits together to get the win.”

Jackson Rau got the win after limiting the Crusaders to four runs (one earned) in five innings. While the Eagles hurt themselves with errors in the early innings, they got out of jams with dazzling defense by turning two inning-ending double plays. Tucker Flory came on to close it out with three strikeouts in a two-inning save.

“Jackson and Tucker were great on the mound. Jackson has always been a great matchup with St. Mary’s because they’re great fastball hitters and they like to hit the ball hard,” Trent Flory said. “Jackson does a great job with his off-speed stuff. You saw them chasing his slider time after time. It works. He does great.

“The last time we played him he did great. This time was no exception. Then Tucker coming in and closing out the game was big. The last two innings he threw the ball well. That combination was fitting because those are our No. 1 and 2 pitchers right there.”

Diederich credited Rau and Flory for putting the Eagles in position to play in the state title game. Coming up just short of winning a championship is his freshman and sophomore seasons didn’t sit well with the Eagles, so Diederich was happy to see that the third time was the charm in his junior campaign.

“Losing last year especially made me really hungry to want to work this year along with the other guys, too,” Diederich said. “We really have been looking for this game since we started the season.”

While Trent Flory called the win over the Crusaders “the pinnacle of the season,” there are still games left to be played for the Eagles. The Veritas coach said that the Eagles would make sure to soak in the KCAA tournament championship, but he’s excited for them to play in the KCICI tournament, which will start on Tuesday at the Mid America Sports Complex in Shawnee.

“We won it last year. It was an exciting tournament actually,” Flory said. “We’re hoping to get it again. Some of the teams are pretty good.

“In fact, one of them we lost to in Midland. So we’re hoping to get them back. They’re a solid team. They’ve got some great hitters on the team and some good pitching, too. Hopefully we’ll get them next week.”

St. Mary’s 110 110 1 — 5 5 3

Veritas 013 071 X — 12 10 6

W — Jackson Rau. L — Roy Clancy. SV — Tucker Flory.

2B — Rondre Diederich (2), Michael Hull, Draven Webb, Veritas.

Veritas highlights — Rondre Diederich 2-for-4, four RBI, run; Draven Webb 2-for-2, RBI, three runs; Tucker Flory 2-for-4, two runs, 2.0 IP, 3 K, BB, R; Cody Heiland 2-for-3, RBI, run; Michael Hull 1-for-3, RBI, run; Jackson Rau 5.0 IP, 4 H, 4 R, 1 ER, K, BB.