Wristen: Bobcats’ push for state berth foreshadowed at BFMBC
Under the glow of stadium lights, the Basehor-Linwood High School baseball team mobbed in the infield and celebrated a championship.
Smiles and hugs abounded.
A trophy was hoisted.
Cameras flashed as parents captured this moment in time.
All the while, first-year BLHS coach Brian Lohafer wore a proud grin on his face.
That may have been an accurate description of the scene Tuesday night in Ozawkie after the Bobcats did the seemingly impossible — they beat defending state champion Bishop Ward 9-7 in the Class 4A regional finals, snapping the Cyclones’ streak of 15 straight trips to the state tournament.
The scene I’m describing, however, took place April 30 at CommunityAmerica Ballpark in Kansas City, Kan. That was the night Basehor-Linwood won the Butch Foster Memorial Baseball Classic. The Bobcats knocked off two-time defending tourney champion St. James Academy — who also advanced to the Class 4A state tournament Tuesday night — in the first round, and then beat rival Bonner Springs in the semifinals before ultimately hammering Holton in the finals.
The Bobcats won three games in three days, a similar format to the regional tournament’s three games in two days design. That night in late April, the Bobcats proved to themselves they could both thrive in a tournament format and also win every game.
After the Butch Foster Classic title game, Lohafer hinted that something special might await his squad a few weeks later.
“We’re definitely going to use it,” Lohafer said of the mental advantage gained by winning the tournament. “We can refer to it and say we did it before, so there’s no reason we can’t do it again.”
In fact, there was only one negative that Lohafer could think of at the time, and it was the hour-long drive to Ozawkie rather than the five-minute jaunt to CommunityAmerica Ballpark.
“The only bad thing is we have to travel quite a ways (for regionals) instead of having it here, but we’ll deal with that when it comes around,” Lohafer said. Then he added, “It’ll be a good week for the kids.”
Sure enough, it’s been a mighty fine week for the Bobcats. A whirlwind 48 hours saw BLHS beat Jefferson County West 7-4 on Monday, followed by a win for the ages in the regional semifinal against Tonganoxie. BLHS trailed for much of the game, tied it at 5-5 in the bottom of the sixth, erased a three-run deficit in the bottom of the eighth and then used a walk-off, three-run homer from Jared Patton in the bottom of the ninth to claim an 11-8 victory and advance to the regional finals.
From there, the Bobcats moved on to the finals where they jumped on Ward for a five-run lead and then held on for a 9-7 victory.
It was Basehor-Linwood’s second tournament championship in 18 days, and the Bobcats have earned a shot at winning one more.
With Bishop Ward out of the way and two successful tournaments this year, Lohafer has another example he can point to and remind the Bobcats that they’ve done this before.
Maybe when it’s all said and done, there will once again be a familiar scene of the Bobcats smiling, hugging and posing for the cameras under the glow of stadium lights with a trophy in hand. If that happens, then Lohafer certainly will once again sport a proud grin as his players celebrate the end of what might be the most remarkable baseball season in Basehor-Linwood history.