Gunner Ellison was on deck when the game ended. He is one of seven seniors on the 2023 squad. (by Steve Rackley)

Nixa Scores Late to Topple Top-Seeded Tigers

Nixa broke open a tie game with a four-run seventh inning and held on for a 6-2 win in the Class 6 District 6 championship game at Republic Thursday. The loss ended Republic’s 12-game winning streak and brought one of its best seasons ever to a close with a 22-10 record.

Nixa out-hit Republic 7-6. The Tigers made two errors, and Nixa was perfect in the field.

The teams traded runs in the early innings, as both starting pitchers hit rough patches. Nixa started the game with two softly hit ground ball singles, and loaded the bases with a walk before Republic starter Caide White had recorded an out. The Eagles scored two runs before the inning was over on two sacrifice flies to take a 2-0 lead.

“I thought their kids did a really good job of doing what they needed to,” said coach Curt Plotner. “Both those runs in the first were sac flies. They’re just so good offensively, it’s hard to keep them down.”

After striking out the side in a dominant first inning, Nixa starter Ethan Taylor ran into trouble in the second. Trace Harrington socked a double to lead off, Wyatt Woods singled, and Collin Myers hit a sacrifice fly to make it 2-1. With one out, Devon Hughes doubled to drive in Woods, tying the score 2-2.

White settled down for Republic, and Nixa turned to reliever Collin Kelly in the third inning. Both pitchers kept the opposing lineups quiet for the next four innings. Nixa put a runner on second in the third inning, then had runners at the corners in the fourth inning before White worked out of trouble.

“I thought Caide did a fantastic job. We just came up on the wrong end of it,” Plotner said. “I told (Nixa coach) Logan (Hughes) if we play ten times, we may go 5-5 or 6-4. We’re just two really good teams. (I’ve got) a lot of respect for them. They were just a little bit better tonight.”

The Tigers put the first two baserunners on in the fourth and failed to score. A leadoff single by Beckner in the sixth also was wasted.

In the seventh, Trace Harrington relieved White and ran into trouble with a leadoff walk to Wyatt Vincent and a single on a sacrifice attempt by Rylan Michel, and when the Tiger infield left third base and second base uncovered, both runners advanced.

Caeden Cloud reached on another walk after a two-strike curve ball by Harrington just missed the outside corner. With the bases loaded and the infield drawn in, Jack Edwards hit a high chopper that bounced just over the glove of shortstop Devon Hughes, scoring two runs. Another sacrifice fly made it 5-2. And a double by Tanner Grant drove in the fourth run of the inning, making the score 6-2.

In the seventh, Andrew Schroeder singled with one out, but Kelly worked around that to retire the side and deliver the district title to Nixa.

Kelly earned the win, working five innings of shutout baseball and allowing only three base hits. Harrington suffered the loss. White worked six innings and allowed two runs on four hits, walking three and striking out six.

Republic’s team-record 22 wins were accompanied by a 12-game winning streak that was the longest for the program since a 14-game streak in 2005.

“I think when the season started, I looked at our schedule and thought… we’re going to play a tough schedule, we may be about .500 but still have a chance to win the league and get hot late, which we were able to do,” Plotner said. “You look at all the great teams we have in this area, and some of them are done playing now and didn’t win a conference championship, didn’t have a 12-game winning streak, so I’m proud of our kids and what they were able to accomplish.”

The game was the final one for seven Republic seniors: Gavyn Beckner, Landon Carter, Gunner Ellison, Aidan Gregory, Collin Myers, Connor Sandridge, and Andrew Schroeder. They’ve been a part of the program during some of its best years ever.

“I don’t have a history book in front of me, but I would say maybe (this is) the most successful class to ever run through this program,” Plotner said. “They won 57 games in three seasons and lost their freshman year to COVID.

“I told them after the game to use it as a learning opportunity. It doesn’t define who we are as man and what we’re going to be moving forward. I’m just really proud of them.”

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