Benjamin Kudrna, Blue Valley Southwest too much for Andover Central in 5A baseball title game

Charles Chaney
Butler County Times Gazette
Andover Central junior Bryce Naipohn waits for a pitch in the Class 5A state title game on Friday, May 28.

WICHITA, Kansas—With two on and one out in the bottom of the seventh, with the Andover Central Jaguars down 2-0, it felt as if we were about to witness a story book ending.

Blue Valley Southwest's Benjamin Kudrna struck out the final two batters of the game to win the Class 5A state championship for the Timberwolves, 2-0 over Andover Central.

"I just felt good about it," Andover Central Head Coach Grant Bacon said. "We had avoided the double play and we had those two [Matt Buffington and Bryce Naipohn] coming up. It just felt good."

Kudrna was overwhelming all afternoon long as he consistently threw in the high 90s and that's not something you see every day in high school baseball. The senior struck out 11 Central batters on the evening and only allowing three hits. 

"Credit to them for saving their No. 1 for the championship," Bacon said. "We about beat him."

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Central was held hitless through five innings and then the Jaguars finally found his timing with Cooper Tabor getting a hit. Then, the Jaguars popped him twice in the bottom of the seventh, setting up the big moment.

It is the fifth time for the Jaguars to be the runner-up, most recently in 2016, but the first since the move up from Class 4A. 

BV Southwest's Cooper Kelly tripled to start the game and was scored on a sacrifice for the 1-0 lead. Bo Shinkle singled to score Mason Holton from second in the second inning for their second hit and the 2-0 lead.

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The Timberwolves would not register another hit the remainder of the way.

Alex Ronk pitched 4⅓ innings for the Jaguars, striking out three and only allowing two hits. Lou Blackman came on in relief, holding BV Southwest hitless through the final 2⅔ of the game.

Central beat Hays 6-4 in the semifinals earlier in the day to reach the 5A title game. Jacob Horn, who has been on of the two main aces for Central picked up the win and helped Central get to their first title game since moving to Class 5A. 

"We needed Jacob for that game," Bacon said. "He helped us get here."

Central jumped out to a 6-0 lead in the semifinal game before Hays made a flurry to get back into the game. Ronk came on in relief, throwing only 28 pitches and sealing the win. 

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"People don't understand how hard it is to win a regional and get to a state championship," Bacons aid. "I'm so proud of our guys and there's a reason why we don't get many days off because I don't like to not be around you guys."

A core group of seniors in Alex Ronk, Easton Elliott, Matt Buffington and Jack Bell will be tough to replace next season as they all bring key skills and leadership roles to the team. They will return the bulk of their rotation in Rece Wilson and Horn. 

"Those guys will be tough to replace but we have a nice group coming back next season," Bacon said.

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.