Winning the Class 2A state baseball title was a culmination of a year's worth of hard work, not just from the start of the baseball season.
Winning the Class 2A state baseball title was a culmination of a year’s worth of hard work, not just from the start of the baseball season.
When Junction City beat Woodlawn in the semifinals last year, it was the first time in five years the Bears did not play in the title game.
From that point, the players started working on getting back to the title game.
Whatever the players worked on paid off as not only did Woodlawn make it back to the title game for the fifth time in six years, the Bears took home the state championship for the third time in that same span with a 14-2 win over Carlisle.
“It was good to see them rewarded for all of their hard work.Woodlawn coach Tommy Richardson said. “Some people think that this happens from March until May, but then you start talking about summer ball, fall ball and practice in the springs that all goes with it.”
Woodlawn (33-5) played a tough schedule during the season to prepare itself for the state tournament and a potential title game. The Bears took losses to Sheridan, which played in the Class 6A title game; White Hall, which won the Class 5A title; Genoa Central, which won the Class 3A championship; and Junction City, which Woodlawn lost twice to before beating the Dragons in the state tournament semifinals.
“Everyone that beat us played in the state finals or in the case of Junction City, we knocked them out,” Richardson said. “That’s a pretty good resume.”
Also on Woodlawn’s schedule was Carlisle, and the Bears beat the Bison 5-4 in the earlier match-up.
Richardson said the tough schedule made his team confident heading into the second matchup against Carlisle.
“We talked about our schedule and looked at their schedule, and it didn’t stack up to what we had done,” he said. “We were at Fayetteville High hitting the day before, and I asked my players if they were nervous, and they weren’t, really.”
For as good as the hitting was in the title game, the Bears leaned on their pitching, which revolved around seniors Dillon Miller, Gavin Johnston and Trey Hankins. Brett Boyd also saw significant time on the mound for Woodlawn.
“Our pitching got us where we were,” Richardson said. “It has been a constant all year long, and that was the plan. Make the other teams swing with the new bats and try and beat us.”
Miller, Johnston, Hankins were a part of a senior class that included four more players — Ryan Dorsett, Blake Brown, Daniel Rissinger and Jacob Rogers.
“They are a tough class to lose,” Richardson said. “They are good baseball players, but they are good kids. They are going to grow up to be successful with whatever they do.”
Miller will leave Woodlawn with a school record that he set twice. As a sophomore, he broke the single-season record for doubles in a season, which is set again after his senior season.
Even though Richardson is losing a bulk of his pitching and a good amount of hitting, that has happened each of the last six years.
“We lost seven of them and they will be sorely missed, but as in the past, the names change, but things have stayed the same,” he said. “We are going to have to work hard to replace them and we’ve got guys that are itching to do that.”
Richardson will not be the only one coaching next year’s batch of players, though, as he gives credit to his coaching staff — Robert Rushing, Brian Miller and Dustin Sanders.
“They do a wonderful job and I think I have the best assistant coaches in America,” he said.