The big picture was far better than the raw emotion of the moment Saturday following a Class 1A state championship game defeat for the Okawville Rockets.
Okawville watched a 3-3 tie explode into a 9-3 defeat as Cobden rode a six-run sixth inning to the first state baseball championship in school history.
Cobden (27-6) sent 11 men to the plate during the inning, collecting eight hits and putting the game far out of reach, outhitting the Rockets 15-6 overall. But that shouldn’t have lessened the pride felt by an Okawville team that finished 17-18 — and also finished second in the state.
“Not having a wining record and getting second place in the state, that’s quite the honor for all of us,” said Okawville catcher Brad Fuhrhop, who was 2-for-4 with a double and RBI. “I think we all deserve it. No reason to be down.”
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Okawville senior starting pitcher Nick Strubhart, who held the Appleknockers to three unearned runs in five strong innings, agreed.
“I think it’s pretty impressive,” Strubhart said. “They look at our record and think ‘Well, these guys can’t be good,’ yet we got second in state. That just shows the record really doesn’t matter. When you come down to it, you win games.”
Okawville coach Jackie Smith tried to console his dejected players.
“It’s disappointing that we didn’t quite get there, but it’s been a dream come true to every single one of these kids,” he said of the state tourney run. “I’m just so happy to let them experience this at least once.”
Okawville didn’t win Saturday, but the Appleknockers had a lot to do with it along with the five errors by the Rockets. It was Cobden’s first state baseball tourney appearance since the 1987 club was hammered 12-1 by Columbia in the state title game.
“We’ve got two kids on this team whose dads were on that team,” Cobden coach Craig Partridge said. “That’s generally considered the best baseball team in our school history.”
That title changed hands Saturday once the Appleknocker won the championship.
It was an intense battle until the sixth, when Cobden broke the game open.
Cobden loaded the bases with no outs against reliever Shane Ganz on two singles a miplayed bunt. Okawville first baseman Dakota Garlich passed up a chance to get an out at first then threw too late to third to get speedy pinch-rinner Austin Lewey.
“The bunt was big, the fact that they didn’t get an out on it,” Partridge said. “We were obviously sacrificing trying to get guys over and the first baseman had a play. It got caught and we’ve got our fastest guy going to third. That was big because we turned the order over at that point.
“They were in and we were hitting a couple choppers that were getting over the infield and things just snowballed from there.”
Lewey scored from third on a wild pitch and the inning eroded quickly from there for the Rockets.
J.T. Moore had an RBI single to chase Ganz, then reliever Mason Drury surrendered a two-run single to Logan Spalt that bounced high over the drawn-in shortstop’s head. Theron Sweitzer added a two-run double in the inning.
“They put the ball in play,” Smith said. “They had a lot of infield hits and give credit to them for making contact on those pitches. Sometimes the ball bounces your way and sometimes it doesn’t. We had a heck of a run this year, so give credit to Cobden.”
An RBI single by Strubhart gave Okawville a 1-0 lead in the first, but two nice defensive plays by Cobden center fielder Moore took the Rockets out of a potential big inning.
Cobden came back with two runs in the second, taking advantage of a two-out fly ball to right that was misplayed by Noland Crane. That scored one run and John Russell’s RBI hit off of Strubhart drove in another.
Down 3-1, Okawville got a run back in the third on an RBI single by Fuhrhop, then tied it in the fourth with two Cobden errors figuring into the mix along with a single by Ganz. A diving stop by Cobden third baseman Sweitzer robbed Alec Wisneski of an RBI hit.
“There’s a lot of emotion in this game being a title game,” Smith said. “We knew that coming in, the kids were going to be high and low and we just tried to keep them as even-keeled as possible. You have to give credit to Cobden, they played one heck of a ballgame.
“They beat us. They plain and simple beat us.”
Game at a Glance
OKAWVILLE FIRST: Mason Drury singled, went to second on a wild pitch and scored on a two-out RBI single by Nick Strubhart.
Okawville 1, Cobden 0
COBDEN SECOND: Jacob Furlow singled with two outs, then scored when Okawville right fielder Noland Crane misplayed a fly ball by Cayden Childers. John Russell followed with an RBI single.
Cobden 2, Okawville 1
COBDEN THIRD: Parker Flamm reached on an error by third baseman Ben Schuette and scored on a sacrifice fly by Theron Sweitzer.
Cobden 3, Okawville 1
OKAWVILLE THIRD: Alec Wisneski hit a leadoff double, went to third on a wild pitch and scored on an RBI single by Brad Fuhrhop.
Cobden 3, Okawville 2
OKAWVILLE FOURTH: Dakota Garlich reached on an error by second baseman Trevor Middleton. Schuette bunted Garlich to second and Garlich scored on a single to left by Shane Ganz.
Okawville 3, Cobden 3
COBDEN SIXTH: Jacob Furlow and Cayden Childers singled, Austin Lewey replaced Fulow on second. John Russell reached safely on his bunt to load the bases when the throw went to third. J.T. Moore had an RBI single and Logan Spalt followed with a two-run single. Theron Speizer had a two-run double.
Cobden 9, Okawville 3