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All weekend, the Salina Drive put on a clinic in pitching, defense and timely hitting.
It was only fitting then that all three elements were on display Sunday afternoon as they wrapped up a six-game run through the Kansas All-American Grand Slam 16-under division with a 2-0 championship victory over the Topeka Stogies-Reynolds at Dean Evans Stadium.
"The whole season we've worked our butts off and not quite gotten there, so this feels amazing," said Drive right fielder Cameron Yohe, a junior-to-be at Sacred Heart High School, who made the defensive play of the game when he threw out a Topeka runner at home plate in the sixth inning. "We played phenomenal."
Indeed, the Salina-based Drive, who include players from all three city high schools as well as Abilene, Ellsworth, Beloit and Hoisington, recorded four shutouts and outscored their six opponents 53-2 on the way to their first tournament championship of the summer.
Drive coach Darrin Sterrett turned to Sacred Heart junior Evan Bogart to pitch the championship game and he did not disappoint, throwing a complete-game six-hit shutout with six strikeouts and also delivering what proved to be the game-winning hit.
Evan Bogart's home run gets Drive on the board
After the two teams combined for two hits and did not move a runner past second base in the first three innings, Bogart jumped on the first pitch from Topeka's Evan Smith in the top of the fourth and belted it over fence in left center to get the Drive on the board.
"I was sitting on a first-pitch curveball and he gave it to me," Bogart said of the blast, one of just four Drive base hits in the game. "He'd been throwing it to a lot of our guys and the second time around the order I was looking for it.
"I thought it had a pretty good chance. That was important because it took a little pressure off us hitting and fielding-wise."
Yohe had no doubt that Bogart's hit had the distance to clear the fence.
"Right off the bat, I said, 'That's gone.' We were telling him he should have done a bat flip, but he said he wasn't sure it was out," Yohe said with a smile.
— Kansas All-American Grand Slam (@ksgrandslam1) July 3, 2022
After Bogart's bomb produced the first run, the Drive resorted to small-ball fundamentals to tack on a second in the top of the sixth inning. With one out, Yohe singled to right center, Bogart reached on an error and Salina South junior Brady Howard followed with a bloop single to right loaded the bases.
Abilene's Zach Miller then hit a slow grounder to second base that drove in Yohe from third.
"We did a great job, like we did all tournament, hitting behind the runner and with situational hitting, getting the runners in," Bogart said.
Cameron Yohe's defensive gem preserves shutout
Defensively, the Drive were solid throughout. After walking the leadoff man in the bottom of the first inning and sending him to second with a balk, Bogart minimized the damage by fielding a one-out ground ball back to the mound, chasing down the base runner between second and third for the second out and then getting out of the inning with a ground ball to first.
After the Stogies' Xan Sneed led off the fifth inning with a base hit and was bunted to second by Maxson Murphy, Bogart struck out the next two batters to squelch that threat. But it was Yohe's defensive gem in the sixth inning that made the biggest impact.
With one out, Topeka's Jayden Berry singled to left and Cooper pound beat out a grounder to deep short. Tucker Busenitz laced a hit to right field, where Yohe grabbed it and came up throwing, gunning down Berry by several feet at the plate to preserve the shutout.
Yohe, who has limited use of his left hand from an all-terrain vehicle accident when he was younger, fielded the ball with his right hand, slipped the glove between is left elbow and bicep and threw a perfect strike to catcher Gunnar Gross.
"I had an idea (the runner was heading for home) because they had to score," Yohe said. "It was the bottom of the sixth and they had to get a run in.
"I fielded it clean, which was a blessing, and then threw it and hoped for the best. Once I let it go and saw it was on line, I knew he was toast, and the emotions just flowed."
Nobody appreciated the play more than Bogart, who then got the final out on a ground ball to short.
"It was perfect. That throw saved us," Bogart said. "He came in, his transition was great, and he launched it.
"I knew I still had to come out and keep pitching (in the seventh inning), but on that play the momentum really tipped to our side."
The Stogies got a single to start the seventh inning, but Bogart got the next three batters on a line drive to center, a pop fly to second base and finished it with a strikeout.
"I didn't have the greatest control at the beginning, but as the game went on it got better and better," said Bogart, who walked one batter and hit another in the first two innings. "We also played great team defense."
With the only close game leading up to the finals a 3-1 victory over McPherson in Thursday's pool opener, Sterrett had his top three pitchers at his disposal.
"Evan was pounding it," Sterrett said. "We had all the pitching (available) that we needed, but I didn't need to use it.
A dominating performance by Drive
"We played six games and gave up two runs. Defense and good pitching win championships — along with good execution. It's not every day that you're able to hit the (heck) out of the ball like we did most of the tournament, so all the little stuff is important."
Winning a championship in front of a home crowd in their first Grand Slam appearance was the icing on the cake.
"A lot of these kids have watched this tournament for 16 years and haven't gotten to play in it," Sterrett said. "It feels good after watching it all these years to come out and win it."
This article originally appeared on Salina Journal: Drive Baseball dominate on the way to Kansas Grand Slam 16-under title