TOPEKA, Kan. — For the third time in six years the Junction City Brigade are the Mid Plains League Champions earning the right to bring home the Cowdin Cup.
“This is a huge win,” said Cecil Aska, Brigade General Manager. “This is our third title, so half the time the league has been here we’ve won the crown. So, it’s great. It’s great for the Brigade and it’s great for Junction City.”
The joyful ending looked like it would go the opposite way as the Topeka Golden Giants took an early lead and held on to until the eighth inning. The Golden Giants took a 1-0 lead in second inning and double their lead in the fourth to control the scoreboard most of the game.
“It looked a little hairy for a while until the eighth,” said Derek Francis, head coach. “We put up a three spot to take the lead. But I always had confidence in these guys. I knew we were going to get it done tonight. Our pitching was good all series and our bats were just good enough. That’s baseball right there.”
The late rally featured a sweep of the lineup in the eighth inning that began with a leadoff single by third basemen Aaron Samaniego. Samaniego reached second on a wild pitch after hesitating in the basepath as the ball ricocheted off the mat behind the plate back to the catcher.
Will Jordan, first base, took a pitch for the team earning a hard 90-foot walk down to first base.
Right fielder Grady Davenport frustrated the tired Topeka starting pitcher while showing a bunt resulting in a walk to load the bases, ending the night for the pitcher.
Topeka would change pitchers again later in the inning.
Junction City native Trae McDaniel popped a hard shot back at the pitcher, which bounced off his glove toward the shortstop who tried to throw out McDaniel at first. The throw never happened as McDaniel was safely passed first before the shortstop ever controlled the ball.
In the process, Samaniego charged from third towards home to place the first tick on the scoreboard for the Brigade.
“The first one is big,” Francis said. “You want a one run game going into the ninth and if add on more, tie it or take the lead, that is icing on the cake. So we got the first one across and I thought that might open up things a little. Getting on the board helps a lot there. We had quality at bats that whole inning. They gave us some free ones and we capitalized on that. I couldn’t be more proud of the guys and the professional bats they put together that inning.”
Two more Brigade runs crossed the plate, Davenport and McDaniel, to give Junction City the 3-2 lead heading into the bottom-half of the eighth.
A long at bat by Topeka’s lead off batter resulted in a fly ball to right field for the first out of the half.
Junction City relief pitcher Jacob Uhing then faced Topeka third basemen Zion Bowlin. Bowlin slammed a solo homerun the night before over centerfield at Rathert Stadium to tighten the score up, but Francis said he was confident that was not going to happen two nights in a row.
“I had faith,” he said. “The lucky thing is that there was no one on base and the wind was blowing in tonight, which is huge. This yard plays big when the wind is blowing in. That was really beneficial to us and Uhing was just filling up the zone. He kept pounding strikes in there and got a lot of soft contact and we played defense behind him.”
Uhing took down the power hitter swinging for the second out and the momentum change was evident to the Brigade fans assembled in the crowd.
The half closed two batters later with one hit and one final strikeout.
Will Jordan put the final point on the board for Junction City in the top-half of the ninth after a one out single to right. Jordan stole second before reaching home on a McDaniel shot to the outfield.
McDaniel was caught just barely off base at second to end the inning, but not before the run scored to give Junction City the 4-2 lead entering the bottom-half of the frame.
Four Topeka batters later the dog pile commenced at the pitchers mound as Uhing earned the final win of the season as pitcher and the Brigade were crowned Mid Plains Champions.