By TOMMY REZAC
St. Joseph Post
OZARK - East Buchanan senior pitcher Kaden Woodside found himself in a tight spot in the top of the third inning during Monday's Class 2 semifinal.
Down 1-0, Holcomb had the bases loaded and only one out after a pair of walks and a single.
Bulldogs' head coach Dave Elms made a quick mound visit, and just two pitches later, a 6-4-3 double play ended the inning.
Woodside walked only one batter after that mound visit, and kept the Hornets off the board for the rest of the game in a complete-game shutout effort, as East Buchanan (18-8) knocked off Holcomb 4-0 Monday at the Class 2 baseball Final Four in Ozark.
Woodside tossed 87 pitches while striking out five and walking four. No hit batters. No wild pitches. No runs across.
"Senior leadership at its finest right there," Coach Elms said of Woodside's performance. "I mean, he put the team on his back. He established the strike zone from the opening pitch. Doing that on a stage like this is huge. I think that settled him in. Our defense was outstanding behind him."
East Buchanan got on the board first in the bottom of the first inning. Senior Blake Antle connected on a single to center, and he proceeded to steal second base.
In the next at-bat, junior Conner Musser reached second base on a dropped pop-fly to left, allowing Antle to score and giving the Bulldogs an early 1-0 lead.
The score stayed that way until the bottom of the fifth inning. Woodside, who batted in the leadoff spot, led off the frame with a single to right. An infield single by senior Matthew Liechti scored Woodside, making it 2-0 East Buchanan after five.
After Woodside struck out two out of his four batters faced in the top of the sixth, the Bulldogs added some more insurance.
With two outs and nobody on, senior Logan Taylor darted a single to center, which was followed by a Woodside walk, and then back-to-back RBI base knocks by seniors Antle and Cameron Henry.
All-in-all, East Buchanan tallied nine hits against Holcomb pitcher Nathaniel Rhew, who struck out nine and walked only three in a complete-game effort.
"We hit the ball well, and that was a quality pitcher we faced," Elms said. "I thought our approach was good 1-9, and I thought our mental approach was good all through the game."
Woodside finished the job quickly in the top of the seventh, retiring Holcomb in just four at-bats and five pitches. The effort is enough to get East Buchanan into the Class 2 state championship game against Marionville, who overcame a five-run deficit to beat Putnam County 8-5.
The game is set for Tuesday evening at 6:30 p.m., although there is a strong chance for rain in the Ozark area throughout the day.
While the rain may soak the field Tuesday, Coach Elms and the Bulldogs continue to soak in all that they have achieved up to this point, and look ahead to the ultimate prize that is still out there - the first state baseball championship in East Buchanan history.
"Every game is special," Elms said. "Not taking for granted what we've done. I'm just so proud of them and what they've done and what they've been able to accomplish."
You can hear Tuesday's championship game LIVE on 680 AM and 95.3 FM KFEQ. Pregame will start at 6:15 p.m. The audio stream can be heard online at 680kfeq.com.
You can follow Tommy on Twitter @TommyKFEQ and St. Joseph Post @StJosephPost.