By TOMMY REZAC
St. Joseph Post
After two, hard fought games to open the MINK League Championship Series, the St. Joseph Mustangs wanted to leave no doubt in the winner-take-all round.
Mission accomplished. Again.
The Mustangs (37-15) won their third consecutive MINK League championship and their eighth since 2009 with an 11-1 victory over the Joplin Outlaws in the third and final game of the league championship series at Phil Welch Stadium Saturday night.
This comes after Joplin took game one 7-3, and after the Mustangs had to fight and scrape for a 6-5 win in game two Friday.
"Oh man, it was so much fun," manager Johnny Coy said. "I know after that first loss, our guys were still super confident we'd come back home and win two in a row. It never crossed their mind we weren't going to win this whole thing.
"We were able to show out that second game and it was a really close game and we came out and we knew that if we could get one win, that game three, we'd put it on them. Our guys were confident in that and they were able to do it."
The Mustangs got the scoring started Saturday in the bottom of the first inning. Savannah alum Noah Bodenhausen led off the frame with a double, and he later scored on a sac fly from Jack Wagner - the first of four runs scored for Bodenhausen.
Joplin (25-23) hung in early, and tied the game in the top of the third. The Outlaws managed three hits in that inning, but stranded two runners on base.
The Mustangs reclaimed the lead in the bottom of the fourth. After Brady Holden walked in a run, Wagner had a two-run RBI single to score Bodenhausen and Jaxon Himel. A Dylan Carey sac fly then scored Holden to make it 5-1 Mustangs after four.
St. Joseph, and Wagner, put their stamp on the game in the bottom of the sixth inning. Wagner blasted his third homer of the season into right center - a three-run bomb to make 8-1, putting Wagner's RBI count to six at that point.
A Michael Paule sac fly then made it 9-1 Mustangs after six.
With two outs and nobody on in the bottom of the seventh, Bodenhausen walked and Holden was hit by a pitch. In the next at-bat, Wagner called game with a two-run RBI single, ending the game via mercy rule.
A 3-for-3, eight-RBI performance for the Kansas Jayhawk.
"That's definitely one of the better games I ever played in my life," Wagner said. "Baseball is a weird game. Once you're clicking, everything you hit just goes. So, it was cool tonight. St. Joe is a special place. Best summer atmosphere you get throughout the United States. I'm blessed to be playing here. Great summer, great bunch of guys. It's just great."
On the mound, recent Savannah graduate Ty Hilsabeck got the start and the win, striking out four batters over six innings and allowing just one earned run.
"Oh it's awesome," Hilsabeck said of the win. "I came here when I was a kid. Now, to be able to be out here on the field is amazing."
Winning championships has become routine for the Mustangs by now, but rest assured, it never gets old.
"These guys deserve it," Mustangs general manager and first-year owner Ky Turner said. "They've worked hard all year long on and off the field. To see it end this way is fitting, but you never know what's going to happen. It's relief, joy, happiness, but now it's like, what am I going to do tomorrow?"
Just like Coy, Turner is always sure to credit the loyal fanbase for the ongoing success, with at least 3,000 fans packing the stands the last two nights.
"The community, the business community, the season-ticket holders, it goes on and on," Turner said. "It's not just me. It's all of these people. It's our community, and it's been a lot of fun."
Turner will take a well deserved rest, now that the season's over. While he'll enjoy some down time, he already has a plan for next summer.
"I think we're going to go for four (straight championships)," he said. "Eight-time champion sounds pretty nice. Until you hear nine. Nine sounds pretty good, too."
You can follow Tommy on Twitter @TommyKFEQ and St. Joseph Post @StJosephPost.