Iola AA Indians win zone title, state bound



July 28, 2012 - 12:00 AM

OTTAWA — What needed to be done was done Thursday night.
Iola American Legion Leslie J. Campbell Post 15’s AA Indians were top-seeded in the 2012 Kansas American Legion AA Zone 2 Tournament. The lived up to their billing.
The Indians did not lose a game in tournament play. When they had to score runs they did. When they had to have solid pitching, they got it. When they had to have solid defense, they played it.
It all added up to a second straight Kansas American Legion zone championship and back-to-back trips to the AA state tournament.
Iola and Ottawa, which would have had to beaten the Indians twice to snare the zone title, battled for the second time in two nights. The two top teams in the tournament met in Thursday’s championship game.
The Indians had the upper hand, after a come-from-behind 8-7 win over Ottawa Wednesday night. Iola just needed to win one game.
It got it 3-2.
Levi Ashmore got the starting nod on the mound for Iola. Nathan Roth started for Ottawa. The two pitchers dueled four scoreless innings.
Then came a scoring flare up in the fifth.
An Indian error, a double and a single produced Ottawa’s two runs in the top of the inning. The Indians were working from behind once again.
Jarred Latta drew a lead-off walk in Iola’s fifth. Ashmore reached on a base hit. Clint Heffern drove in Iola’s first run with a single.
Jerrik Sigg’s groundout plated the tying run. Drew Walden cranked out an RBI sacrifice fly to right field to drive in Heffern for the go-ahead run.
“It was a good game and we played pretty solid baseball,” said Mike Taylor, the Indians’ head coach. “We had two errors but they weren’t mental errors.
“The defense turned two double plays. Levi pitched well and kept us in the game. We rolled the dice in bringing in Jerrik to pitch the last two innings.”
The gamble paid off for the AA Indians. Sigg and the Indians retired Ottawa in order in the sixth and seventh innings. Sigg struck out three batters, including the final two hitters.
Ashmore worked five innings and gave up two runs on five hits and two walks. He struck out three.
Taylor was only disappointed in his team’s hitting. He said the Indians didn’t hit the ball, stranding seven base runners. Iola had seven hits in the game.
Heffern had a single and a double and Ashmore hit two singles. Hitting a single each were Walden, Dalton Smith and Latta.
Things went a little different this summer than last for the AA Indians in winning a zone championship. Last year, the Indians lost their opener in the Zone 3 tournament and had to win six straight games to capture the championship.
This week the Indians stayed in the winners bracket, won three games and the championship. That was big in conserving pitching and energy in the sweltering July heat.
The 2012 AA Indians have posted a 37-3 mark, which is better than last year’s 36-14. Not since 1982 and 1983 has an Iola AA baseball team gone to the state tournament back-to-back.
Iola took second at state in 1983. In 1988, the Iola Indians won a Kansas American Legion AA state championship and most of those players were back for a second-place finish in 1990.
Iola qualified for the AA state tournament in 2007.
The state tournament begins Wednesday in Sabetha. Iola plays Sabetha in the second game Wednesday, starting about 8:30 p.m.

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