By TOMMY REZAC
St. Joseph Post
OZARK – Lafayette has had a mantra they’ve run with since the middle of the season – win the last game. Whatever that meant. Whatever it took.
The Irish (20-8) did that on Thursday with gusto, taking down Hollister 12-2 in five innings to win the Class 4 third place game at US Baseball Park in Ozark.
Lafayette grabbed an 8-0 lead by the end of the second inning and never looked back.
“When we scored those seven runs in that second inning, I was like, ‘This game is ours,’” said senior Zach Langley, who got the win a complete game effort on the mound, striking out two and allowing only four hits.
After watching Kennett hit a three-run homer off of him the day before in the semifinal, Langley says Thursday’s game was a refreshing end to an all around memorable season.
“Adrenaline, happiness, excitement all in my body is so surreal,” he said. “Coming out in this game, there’s a lot we were anticipated to do. We said after last night, ‘We have to wipe it. We have to come ready to play today.’ So, coming out with a W shows how hard we had to fight this year.”
Langley is one of six seniors who played their final game in an Irish uniform Thursday. It’s a class that has left its mark on this season, and on their high school’s history, helping to bring Lafayette baseball its first Final Four berth and now its first win in a Final Four game.
“We’ve stuck to this motto ‘win the last game’ since the middle of the season,” said senior Jayden Little, who went 3-for-4 with a run scored and an RBI. “We’ve really been playing like that. We came out yesterday, thought we had it and it slipped away from us toward the end. We went back last night, put our heads on straight and said, ‘That is not how we want to go out. We can’t go out like that.’”
The Irish gave themselves an early cushion, scoring seven runs on eight hits in the second inning, highlighted by senior Dayne Koch’s base-clearing, three-run RBI double to left. Koch went 3-for-3 with two runs scored.
In all, eight Irish got a hit and eight Irish scored, as Lafayette outhit the Tigers 14-4.
“It really helped,” Little said of the fast start. “One through nine today, we were really solid. No one was missing. Everyone was spraying the field all over, and it put all of the pressure on them. We felt as if we had no pressure today. Just come in, have fun, play the best to your ability and we know if we do that, we can hang with anybody in the state.”
Leading 8-2 entering the bottom of the fifth, Langley, Koch and senior Chance Herie all doubled to get the scoring started in that frame. With bases loaded and one out, junior Xavion Page hit a pop fly to left deep enough for Koch to score from third and end the game via mercy rule.
Head coach Matt Jansen and the staff say goodbye to six seniors – all of whom were starters. But, three junior starters – Page, Cade King and Kobe Jones – all return next year, along with three freshmen and two sophomores.
The 2021 team has set the bar high for the future of Lafayette baseball, and Jansen, who just wrapped up his first season as head coach, is excited to see how it transpires.
“The seniors set the foundation for the next class,” said Jansen. “Not only are they talented, but they showed them how to work and how to do things and kind of set them up for the future. I’m proud of them, and am excited for the future and beyond for sure.”
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