Mansfield’s defense of its Class 2 state championship came up one game short in a 12-5 championship game loss to Valle Catholic.
“I have to tip my cap to Valle Catholic. They are a good ball club. They showed a different level of play than we witnessed last night (in the semifinals),” Mansfield coach Joe Garrison said. “We kicked it around a little bit, but they did everything it took to win a championship.”
The Lions jumped out to a 1-0 lead after the first and 3-1 after the second before the Warriors tied the game with two runs in the top of the third.
The two were both scoreless in the fourth before a fifth-inning that would decide the game.
Senior Mansfield pitcher Spencer Greene appeared to be settling in after following a scoreless fourth with two quick outs in the fifth inning.
Then the hits started coming.
And kept coming.
Three consecutive singles allowed Valle Catholic to take its first lead of the game. Then after the play was seemingly over on the third of those singles, Valle Catholic pinch runner Bryce Palmer was on second and broke for third and the Lions threw the ball into left field to allow a second run to score and go down 5-3.
Greene would give way to Jordan Evans on the mound, but the hits continued to fall. Back-to-back singles followed by back-to-back doubles would give the Warriors a commanding six-run lead.
Mansfield worked to battle back in the bottom of the fifth with two runs of their own. Valle Catholic would put the game away after following a scoreless sixth inning with a three-run seventh inning.
Mansfield will lose eight seniors from this team including Christian Buchanan, James Lansdown, Jordan Evans, Jacob Gray, Jacob Peak, Spencer Greene, Devin Kingery and Crayton Henry. Six of those eight started the state title game.
Even though will no longer put on a Mansfield Lion uniform, their impact on the program will endure with the strong example of work ethic they leave behind.
“You ask them to do anything and they go out and do it to the best of their abilities. They knew what it took coming off last year. They laid out the goals for us early. I tried to guide them and their work ethic to prepare them for this stage and this moment. We did all we could there,” Garrison said. “That work ethic is what they are going to pass down.”
Mansfield will look to reload and make a run back to O’Fallon next year as Garrison will enter his second season as the head coach.
Before he looks forward, Garrison knows what he will remember about the 2018 Lions.
“The experience of the tough schedule and how we rose up and made a deep run in the state tournament will be the lasting memories my first year here at Mansfield,” Garrison said. “As we have said many times here, we are hungry for more.”