Verdigris senior Blake Battenfield polished off a ‘unbelievable’ four-year high school career with a spectacular performance Saturday afternoon in the Class 3A State Finals.
Battenfield went 4-for-4 at the plate and tossed three scoreless innings in relief to lead the No. 1-ranked Cardinals past No. 2 Vian, 7-1 for their third-straight state championship.
“It’s an amazing feeling, one you can’t describe,” Battenfield said on completing the three-peat and winning state. “I couldn’t go out a better way. This community is so close and supportive. I love Verdigris and wouldn’t want to live anywhere else.”
Battenfield, who signed with Oklahoma State University, hit a pair of doubles, but it was his second in the bottom of the fifth inning that provided the insurance for the Cardinals.
After Reece Phillips’ run-scoring double in the fourth put Verdigris ahead 2-1, the Cardinals scored a pair of runs in the fifth and three more in the sixth to close out the Wolves.
Battenfield said that the fifth inning has always been the ‘big’ inning for the Cardinals this season.
In the quarterfinals, Verdigris used a two-run homer by Ryan Skalnik in the fifth inning to beat Oklahoma Christian, 3-0.
Then, in the semifinals, Verdigris scored seven runs in the fifth to whip Spiro, 10-3.
On Saturday, the fifth inning once again proved lucky for the Cardinals.
After trailing 1-0 in the top half of the third, Verdigris evened the score at 1-1 with Skalnik plating Ryan Hurd on a sacrifice fly to center field.
The lead held til the fourth when Verdigris took over with Phillips’ RBI-double.
Verdigris senior pitcher J.W. Owens (8-0) tossed the first four innings and allowed one run on three hits with three strikeouts and two walks.
After Verdigris claimed the 2-1 lead, Battenfield took the mound in the fifth and dominated with two strikeouts in three scoreless innings.
“I wanted the ball in the fifth,” Battenfield said. “The adrenaline was going and J.W. did a great job of getting us through four.”
Keith added that the game plan was to throw Owens for four and then bring Battenfield in at the fifth inning.
“Blake was unbelievable out there,” Keith said. “He’s one of the best pitchers that I’ve coached in 21 years. I wouldn’t want the ball in anyone else’s hand in that situation (leading 2-1).”
Verdigris, clinging to a 4-1 lead, slammed the door in the bottom of the sixth with three runs — aided by Kale Keith’s two-run double.
“All season long, this team has found ways to win,” Keith said. “They’ve never backed down and let pressure get to them. They are so resilient and scrappy.”
Notes: The four Verdigris seniors — Ryan Hurd, Tanner Smith, Blake Battenfield and J.W. Owens — went 95-14 with three titles in three years. ... Battenfield finished 33-4 on the mound with more than 300 strikeouts.