(Above) East Buchanan senior shortstop Kaden Woodside collides with a Marionville runner at second base on Tuesday night. (Below) Junior pitcher Conner Musser delivers to the plate in the Missouri Class 2 State Championship on Tuesday. Christopher Parker | Special to The Leader
It took East Buchanan decades to win its first district championship in baseball. It took just 12 days to turn that district title into a Missouri Class 2 State Championship appearance.
Senior pitcher Kaden Woodside needed fewer than 100 pitches to spin a complete game shutout and – with the timely hitting and stingy defense of his teammates – lead East Buchanan past Holcomb 4-0 in the Missouri Class 2 State Semifinals on Monday, May 31, at US Baseball Park in Ozark, Mo.
The victory earned East Buchanan (18-8) a spot in the state championship game the following day against Marionville (22-6).
Woodside spread out six hits and four walks over seven innings while striking out four batters on his way to the shutout victory.
“I’ve had the opportunity to coach (Kaden) and watch him grow as a player and as a person,” said East Buchanan head coach Dave Elms. “It’s been a pretty rewarding thing to watch. He pitched his best game (Monday). He became a pitcher instead of a thrower. Hats off to him. Just a great performance on, again, a big stage.”
And when Woodside needed it the most, his teammates were right behind him with stellar defense.
Holcomb managed to work the bases loaded with just one out in the top of the third inning. After a mound visit by East Buchanan, Woodside drew a ground ball out of the batter, which went from shortstop BroncoWhitt to second baseman Matt Liechti to first baseman Drew Thompson for an inning-ending double play.
It was one of two double plays the Bulldogs turned on Monday, as Holcomb stranded nine runs on the base paths.
“The kids weren’t scared of the big stage,” Elms said of the defense. “They went out and competed. In fact, I think they seemed even more focused. They wanted to make a play for their teammate and I think they willed their way into making good plays. The double plays were huge. Those are big plays in a regular season game, let alone a state semifinal.”
East Buchanan opened the scoring Monday in the first, when senior outfielder Blake Antle reached base on a single, stole second base, and scored when he hustled all of the way around on Conner Musser fly-ball that was mishandled by a Holcomb outfielder.
It would be East Buchanan’s lone score until the fifth inning, when senior Matt Liechti singled over Woodside. Antle and senior Cameron Henry added RBI singles in the sixth, as all four of East Buchanan’s runs Monday came with two outs.
Elms said the players did a great job of adjusting and making each pitch count.
“I think that’s been our key the entire season,” Elms said, “to fight and claw every pitch. We went from an approach of fighting every at-bat to fighting every pitch. As silly as it may sound, I asked the kids a few weeks ago, “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. And that’s our mentality. We have to fight and claw every pitch.”
Antle was a spotless three-for-three at the plate with a run scored, an RBI, and a walk. Kaden Woodside scored twice and Logan Taylor added a run of his own.
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