Circle baseball stuns Buhler, makes state tournament for first time since 2013

Charles Chaney
Butler County Times Gazette

BUHLER, Kansas — Senior Daniel Stovall only needed four pitches to make some magic happen. 

On the fourth pitch of his third at bat, the senior took Buhler's Ryan Henderson over the left field fence for the three-run home run and a commanding 8-3 lead for Circle. 

It would be all the Thunderbirds would need to make a return trip to the Class 4A state tournament as Circle beat the favorited Buhler Crusaders, 8-6 on Thursday night.

Buhler, who came into the regional as the No. 2 team in the state and the prohibited favorite to win the regional, the Thunderbirds weren't fazed. They thumped Ulysses by run-rule, setting up the rubber match between the two AVCTL-III schools.

The two split their doubleheader on April 22. That was after Buhler dropped 39 runs on then 3A No. 1 Wichita Collegiate. Circle took the first game and dropped the second one. Circle knew they could compete. 

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Buhler beat Rose Hill 3-2 in the first game in eight innings and had the advantage of having two days off due to rain outs after their win. Circle had to win both of their games on the same day. 

Again, Circle did not appear to be fazed when Buhler went up 2-0 in the bottom of the first or 3-1 through three innings. 

Circle waited their time and struck. They took the lead for good when Levi Nice singled to score Jake Brown and give the T-Birds the 4-3 lead in the top of the third with one out. It capped off a three-run inning for Circle.

They weren't finished.

Lane Willhite singled to left field to score Blaine Bourne, pushing the lead to 5-3. Then came Stovall's at bat. 

The Friends University commit went 2-for-4 against Buhler, with four RBIs. He also went 4-for-5 against Ulysses for 2 RBIs and another home run. 

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Max Maholland pitched four innings, giving up seven hits, while striking out four to pick up the win over Buhler. 

Buhler scored two with no out, but it was senior Jake Shaults who shut down the Crusaders by striking out Bradley Neill to end the game.

Circle now heads to Salina on Thursday for a first round game against an opponent that has yet to be named. 

Charles Chaney has been the Sports Editor for the Butler County Times-Gazette since Aug. 2019. You can reach him at cchaney@butlercountytimesgazette.com or on Twitter at @ChuckChaneyBCTG.