High School Sports

‘I didn’t think it was high enough.’ Grand slam decides 43rd District championship.

Tates Creek dammed the streak.

Down 5-2 to Lafayette through five-and-a-half innings, the Commodores used a grand slam by star senior Colin Burgess to emerge with a 7-5 victory in the 43rd District championship game on the Generals’ home field.

“I didn’t think it was high enough,” Burgess, a Wichita State signee, said of his pivotal hit. “I got lucky on the bounce really. When the fans started yelling, I got the chills a little bit, I’m not gonna lie.”

Tates Creek will get to host its first-round opponent by virtue of being a district winner; Lafayette will travel in round one. The Commodores ended Lafayette’s streak of four straight district titles, and won their first since 2014. Both teams will play in the 11th Region tournament.

“Take your hat off to Lafayette, to do what they’ve done the last four years? In this district, that’s pretty daggone impressive,” Tates Creek Coach Larry Poynter said. “Those guys should be proud. Our reaction to winning is based on what they’ve done. They’ve set a high standard in our district, and to come in here at their place and get that win? ... I hope we see them in the 11th Region finals and keep it in the 43rd.”

Eli Tencza, Tates Creek’s starting pitcher, helped the Commodores’ cause early with a two-out single that put them up 1-0 in the bottom of the first inning. Lafayette answered shortly thanks to a one-out solo shot over the right-field fence by Austin Blake in the top of the second.

The Commodores left the bases loaded in their part of the second and stranded two more in the third. They didn’t manufacture runners in the fourth but regained the lead on a two-out solo home run by Burgess off Shane Anderson, who took over for Zach Tudor after he worked 1 and 2/3 innings in relief of Generals starter Gavin Hall.

After Lafayette opened the fifth with a strikeout and groundout, a walk and a hit batter gave the Generals life. Tates Creek opted for a pitching change, bringing in Chandler Workman.

Josh Halterman capitalized on the fresh arm: he hit a two-run double deep to right field on the second pitch he saw to give Lafayette its first lead, 3-2. Ryan Busseni brought Halterman home on an RBI single before Workman ended the frame with a strikeout.

Lafayette again used a two-out assault to extend its lead to 5-2 in the sixth; Max Williams hit a two-out RBI double to score Nathan Lancianese, who beat a tag at home. Halterman had an opportunity to inflict further harm but grounded out to Tates Creek reliever Noah Blythe with the bases loaded.

Bradley Fetherston got a run back for Tates Creek on a fielder’s choice RBI and Lafayette couldn’t come up with an out on the play. The Generals made another change on the mound, bringing aboard Halterman, before a bunt single by Blythe loaded the bases.

Tates Creek’s Colin Burgess (23) hit a grand slam that helped decide the 43rd District title on Tuesday. Alex Slitz aslitz@herald-leader.com

That set up Burgess’ game-deciding blast, which came against an 0-2 count. Creek put runners on the corners with two outs afterward but Lafayette stranded them.

“I knew he would hit a ball hard, somewhere,” Poynter said. “Our motto whenever we’re behind is ‘Do your job and pass it to the next guy.’ His job happened to be really big, right there, and he did a hell of a job for us.”

Blythe got the win for Tates Creek. He entered with two outs in the top of the sixth and recorded the first two outs in the final frame but left with an injury to his throwing arm. Blayne Deaton came on for the save.