Curt Plotner waves Gunner Ellison around third with the eventual winning run as Kickapoo infielders look on. (by Steve Rackley)

Gunner’s Mad Dash Delivers District Semifinal Win

Gunner Ellison sprinted from first to home with the eventual game-winning run on a wild fifth-inning play. Gavyn Beckner ripped the line drive that allowed Ellison to score — and also pitched a complete game — lifting the Tigers past Kickapoo in the district semifinal Wednesday in Republic, 3-2. The win gave the Tigers a new single-season record for wins in a season, with 22.

Republic trailed 2-1 with two outs and nobody on base in the bottom of the fifth inning, but Garrett Lester drew a walk and Gunner Ellison singled him to third. That set up Beckner’s game-winning hit on a 2-0 count.

Beckner scorched a sinking line drive toward the left field line, where Kickapoo outfield Jackson Howser sprinted, dove, and got a glove on the ball. Republic coach Curt Plotner immediately indicated to Ellison that the ball had come out of Howser’s glove, waving Ellison to third. The home plate umpire also indicated the ball come loose, even as Howser stood up and held the ball aloft in his bare hand to indicate a catch. As the Kickapoo defense hesitated, Plotner waved Ellison around third, and Ellison scored without a play, giving the Tigers the lead.

From there, Beckner made the lead hold up. He retired the side in order in the sixth inning, then pitched around a leadoff single in the seventh. Beckner struck out pinch hitter Nathan Vaughn with two outs and the tying run at third to end the game.

The Tigers had taken the lead off Kickapoo starter Collin Muldoon in the bottom of the third. Collin Myers walked with one out, took second on a wild pitch, and scored on an infield single by Lester.

Kickapoo scored twice to take the lead in the fourth. Jalen Brandon and Cael McCarville singled to put runners at first and third. Brian Wamsher grounded to Republic first baseman Trace Harrington, who stepped on the bag to record an out, then threw to second to try to retire McCarville. The ball went off the glove of shortstop Devon Hughes, allowing McCarville to go to third base, and he came in to score on a single by Silas McKee.

Beckner allowed two runs — one earned — on six hits in seven innings of work. He struck out six and did not walk a batter. Muldoon was solid in five innings of work, despite suffering the loss. He allowed three runs on four hits, striking out six, walking three, and hitting two batters. Nate Owen pitched a scoreless inning in relief for the Chiefs.

Gunner Ellison had two of Republic’s four base hits, scoring a run. Beckner was 1-for-3 with two runs batted in. Garrett Lester reached base three times with two hits and a walk, and he scored a run and drove in another.

Republic’s 22 wins are the most ever for the program, and they’ve won 12 in a row. The Tigers will host Nixa (30-6) in the district championship game Thursday at 6:00.

Editor’s Note: The semifinal game, originally scheduled for Friday, has been moved up to 6:00 Thursday to beat the wet weather predicted for Friday and Saturday.

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