Prep Baseball Report

Westminster Claims Third Consecutive State Title

By Jack Witthaus
Prep Baseball Report Writer 

On Sunday, Westminster baseball won State for the third consecutive year, defeating Oak Grove, 2-1, in the Class Four finals.

The Wildcats are the first team to win three State championships in a row since Helias grabbed three crowns from 1987-1989. 

“The first (State championship) was great,” three-time State champ junior Shane Benes said. “The second one was even better. But this one, I can’t even explain it. This doesn’t happen everyday. It’ll be something we remember our whole lives.” 

The 2-1 victory was closely contested from the start of the game. After a scoreless frame, Oak Grove scored their only run of the game in the second inning. Kyle Martin reached second on an error at first base, advanced to third on a wild pitch and finally crossed home on a Corey Bolin sacrifice to center. 

After the second, Westminster southpaw pitchers Davis Vanderslice and Ben Lovell, who tossed two innings two days prior, shut Oak Grove Down, only allowing three hits and a walk through five innings. 

“We battled all day and hit the ball hard, but (usually) right at them,” coach Rich Van Gilst said. 

Vanderslice, who took home the victory, threw four innings, struck out two and gave up three hits without an earned run. His counterpart Lovell finished the game, tossing 2.2 innings, striking out three and walking one on three hits. 

The offense behind Vanderslice and Lovell didn’t do much for Westminster, eeking out a mere two runs after putting on an hitting clinic in yesterday’s game against Logan-Rogersville. 

The Wildcats plated both of their runs in the top of the fourth. Bryce Bell beat out a ground ball to start the inning and then stole second base. Shane Benes, the following batter, buried a change up into the left field bleachers for a two-run homerun. 

“Without Bryce beating out that ground ball, we’d still be tied,” Van Gilst said. 

Up until the homerun, Benes had been struggling at the plate during the State tournament. 

“That was the first ball I hit past the pitcher all weekend,” Benes said. 

Benes, who went one for three on the day, was the only player to hit better than a single for Westminster. Oak Grove pitchers Cole Doherty and Conner Matson combined to limit the Wildcats to four hits. 

Doherty was handed the loss after throwing five innings, giving up two earned runs and striking out one. Matson, who’d pitched a complete game on Saturday against Booneville, tossed two perfect innings, striking out two. 

The strong outings from Matson and Doherty, though, were not enough to stop Westminster from their State crown. 

“You dream about (winning State),” Lovell said. “It’s always great to win a State championship. You can always look back on the brothers you created through State championships … That’s such a cool feeling.”