The Woodlawn Bears hoist the Class 2A state championship trophy after beating Carlisle 14-2 on Saturday at Baum Stadium. (Arkansas News Bureau/Mark Buffalo)
FAYETTEVILLE — After Woodlawn missed the state tournament for the first time in five years last year, coach Tommy Richardson held a team meeting.
The meeting was about how the team could make it back to the state tournament and come home with a state title. Richardson said there were a lot of tears after the Junction City game and the meeting also contained a bunch of tears.
The meeting paid off as Woodlawn took care of business during the regular season, knocked off Junction City in the semifinals and beat Carlisle 14-2 to win the Class 2A state baseball title on Saturday in Baum Stadium.
“We got Junction out of the way and the team kind of relaxed,” Richardson said. “This is a tribute to our conference (7-2A East) and it doesn’t get any easier, so when you get out of the conference and play others, it’s kind of nice.”
It is Woodlawn’s third state championship in six years. It was also the second time the Bears beat Carlisle this year, the first time by a score of 6-5.
Woodlawn (33-5) came out swinging right away and scored three runs in the first inning on four hits and drew two walks.
“We were ready to hit,” Richardson said. “We had a good week of practice and I knew we were going to hit the ball.”
Carlisle (29-7) did not roll over, though, and scored two runs of its own in the bottom half of the inning.
Woodlawn kept after Carlisle starting pitcher Trey Wilson and knocked him out after 1 1/3 innings. He gave up five runs on six hits, walked four and struck out three batters.
“We preached all week that we can’t go out on emotions, because if we do, it’s going to get us in trouble,” Carlisle coach B.J. Green said. “That’s my best pitcher and we are here because of his arm, and they hit him, but he also had some walks there and he has only had 13 walks this year in 52 innings.”
Josh Mathis did not have much more success against Woodlawn, which was up 5-2 by the end of the second inning. While Mathis was able to shut down the Bears in the third inning, they exploded for seven runs in the fourth inning and five were score off Mathis.
As the Bears jumped out to a 12-2 lead, senior Gavin Johnston was holding the Carlisle bats in check. Johnston went all five innings and gave up two runs on two hits, walked four and struck out five batters. He also went 2 for 2 with one RBI and two doubles as he was named the game’s MVP.
“I was just relaxed, and when we start ahead it gives you more comfort on the mound,” Johnston said. “I think it is my best outing and I felt comfortable out there.”
Richardson said Johnston played a great all-around game.
“He hit the ball well and has hit the ball well all year,” Richardson said. “He has been throwing great all year, too.”
Green said Richardson kept his team off-balance all game.
“We just never could get the bats going,” he said. “The Johnston kid did a great job against us and we hit him the first time we saw him.”
The fourth inning got a little out of hand for Carlisle as Hayden Hoover hit a single to center field, but was called out for stepping out of the batter’s box. Hoover said some words and was ejected. As Greene tried to cool Hoover down, Hoover rushed to home plate and started kicking dirt on the umpire and bumped into him. Hoover’s mom then started dancing on the dugout and Hoover and his family was escorted out of the stadium by the security.
“He’s a senior and never not one time has he done that,” Greene said. “He just snapped and kids do funny things. My team is embarrassed and that’s not any representation of Carlisle and the high school.”
Woodlawn added two more runs in the fifth inning to add some icing to the cake and guarantee the victory.
“This team is a family and they care about each other and that’s what I was thinking about during the last inning,” Richardson said. “That’s the not case on every team where you get jealousy and poor leaders. This group of senior leaders worked hard and the players fixed each other and a great bunch of leaders.”
Jacob Richardson and Bret Boyd each drove in three RBIs, Colton Williams had two RBIs and Dillon Miller, Rissinger and Blake Brown all had an RBI.