OKLAHOMA CITY — Lefthander Gabe Brown has this little ritual he does every time he walks to the mound. He takes a little hop over the third baseline for good luck.
“ It gets me motivated and ready to go pitch, ’’ said Brown. “So far, it’s helped.’’
On Saturday, Brown took little jumps for himself and giant leaps for his team, firing a four-hit shutout and leading No. 1 Verdigris to a 2-0 victory over second-ranked Kansas in the Class 3A state baseball championship game at Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark.
The Cardinals (31-6) captured their fourth straight title and fifth overall while sending Kansas home 32-5 with three of the losses coming against Verdigris in four meetings this season.
The beat indeed went on for coach Brian Keith and his crew. The Cards scored two runs in the first inning and made them stand up with smooth defensive play, surviving a late scare to ensure victory.
“I got a little bit nervous, but I knew our defense would make the plays,’’ said Brown, who struck out five and did not walk a batter. “They made them the whole game.
“This (title) is better than last year’s to me because I got to pitch. It was an unbelievable feeling after we got the final out.’’
Verdigris appeared to be in complete control going into the bottom of the seventh inning, then the Comets sprung for two singles. Junior Logan Blaine, who smacked three of Kansas’ four hits, sent one into center field and two outs later, Shayne Warren slapped another just over the glove of leaping shortstop Payton Battenfield.
Blaine raced to third base waiting for a little help from the bat of Casey Armbrister. It never came. Armbruister gounded harmlessly to Battenfield for a force out at second, ending the game.
“I’ve been in that situation before, but Gabe Brown had awesome command out there today,’’ said Keith, who showed faith in the sophomore. “He established the mid-away and did a good job changing speed. I told him to stay down because he had the defense behind him. Winning our fourth title seems like a dream.’’
It all started in the first inning when catcher Riley Keizor ripped a double into the right field corner, scoring Battenfield who reached base on a fielder’s choice. Keizor eventually scored on a passed ball and the Cardinals stood firm for one more state crown.