The Stringer Red Devils baseball team clinched the regular season Region 7-1A title Friday night with a 7-2 victory over Sebastopol.
Standing at No.1 and No.2 in the region, both teams knew the stakes were high coming into the contest. Stringer could claim the title with either a win or a loss by four runs or less.
Despite the lopsided final score, the Red Devils struggled to find their rhythm early and trailed for most of the first three innings.
“Our pitcher kept us in the game,” said Coach Wade Weathers afterwards, referring to senior Conner Hicks. “Hicks threw a full seven innings — five of which he held the opponents scoreless — and collected eight strikeouts, allowing just two runs on five hits. “He gave up two runs early but just continued to go out and fight, and ultimately was able to limit them to just those two runs.”
The momentum changed once and for all with two outs in the bottom of the third. Senior Conner Smith crushed a fastball, sending it sailing over the massive 24ft wall in left field for a grand slam. Smith’s home run gave Stringer a 5-2 advantage, and they never looked back.
In the bottom of the sixth, Andrew Nix and Brennen Green piled on two more runs after a wild throw to third base gave them the opportunity to reach home plate on a fielding error.
The Red Devils’ seven runs were scored by seven different players in a collectively solid performance by the whole offense. Conner Smith went down as the hero, of course, batting .500 at the plate with one run scored and four RBIs on a show-stopping grand slam.
The Red Devils have now completed their regular season district schedule with a perfect 6-0 record. Coach Weathers believes the tests they faced against bigger programs early in the season prepared them for such success at the 1A level.
“Early on in the season we were competing against a lot of teams that were bigger than us, we were taking some lumps, but we competed our tails off,” said Weathers. “Our district teams were the only 1A opponents we faced the whole year, so for our guys to see that facing those kind of teams prepared us for the groups we’ve faced in the district and the groups we’ll face in the playoffs, we feel really confident. And I couldn’t be happier for these guys. They took some really tough losses against some really good teams, so now I’m glad to see them succeed.”
The last time Stringer won the region title, they went on a postseason tear, advancing all the way to the state semifinals before falling to the 2015 1A state champions from Cathedral. Coach Weathers and the Red Devils hope to create a memorable postseason run of their own after completing the last two games of the regular season next week against Taylorsville and Bay Springs.
(Article written by Brad Crowe)