Even though the Circle baseball team finished with the best regular season in program history at 13-7, the T-Birds were the No. 4 seed in an extremely competitive regional at Augusta High School. As the No. 4 seed, the Thunderbirds were forced to play in a play-in game against the No. 5 seeded El Dorado Wildcats on Monday afternoon.
Earlier in the season, the two teams met in El Dorado. Circle dominated the series, winning 16-0 and 11-6.
El Dorado stepped up it’s level of play in the regional play-in game, but the Thunderbirds were able to rally and advance with a 4-3 win in extra innings.
Gage Starkey started on the mound for the Wildcats and looked phenomenal. Starkey threw six scoreless innings to open the game.
El Dorado broke the tie in the top of the third inning. Gage Starkey led off with a double. After the next two Wildcat batters got out, Jarin Koehler reached base on a walk, and then stole second base. With runners on second and third, Chase Vetch doubled to give El Dorado a 2-0 lead.
El Dorado added to their lead, when Jarin Koehler beat a throw to home plate to give El Dorado a 3-run lead in the fifth inning.
Heading into the bottom of the seventh, El Dorado was still hanging on to a 3-0 lead.
Aidan Botcher led off the bottom of the seventh with a walk.
With one out, Easton Barrier hit what might have been a game-ending double play ball. The Thunderbirds were fortunate as the ball was misplayed and both runners reached base safely due to the El Dorado error.
Lane Coulter took advantage of the El Dorado mistake during Circle’s next at-bat. Coulter hit a double to bring home two runs and make it 3-2 with one out.
Following Coulter’s double, El Dorado brought in Trey Smith to pitch. Smith struck out the first batter he faced, but Coulter was able to steal third base.
With two outs, Coulter waited for the perfect time and headed for home plate. As soon as the catcher began to throw to the pitcher, Coulter took off. This caught the Wildcats off guard and Coulter was able to use his blazing speed to narrowly beat the throw back to the catcher and tie the game at 3 in the bottom of the seventh. Circle fans may have felt a sense of deja vu, as this was the second straight game that Coulter stole home to tie the game in the bottom of the seventh inning.
In the bottom of the eighth inning, Gavin Carson hit a single with one out.
Camden Flaming grounded out, but advanced the baserunner. After a walked batter, Brayden Ketley hit a single to shallow right field to score the game-winning run and keep the T-Birds season alive.
El Dorado junior Chase Veatch led the Wildcats at the plate with one hit and two RBI’s.
Lane Coulter finished with two doubles and two RBI’s for the T-Birds. Brayden Ketley and Brandon Terrones also finished with two hits each.
Lane Coulter started on the mound for the T-Birds, allowing two runs in four innings. Gunner Hutson pitched the final four innings for the T-Birds.
El Dorado’s Gage Starkey pitched 6 and one-third innings, before Trey Smith came in to pitch in the seventh and eighth.
Circle was originally scheduled to take on Andover Central later Monday night, but the game was called off in the second inning due to approaching storms. The game will be made up on Wednesday night at 6 p.m. with the winner advancing to the championship game on Thursday night.
With the loss, El Dorado finishes the season with a record of 3-16.