BASEBALL: Am-Po steps up, captures Class A crown

May 5—The Panthers proved they belonged.

Just a few days before the start of the Class A state tournament in Shawnee, No. 6 Amber-Pocasset trailed 4-0 in an if-necessary regional championship game. Fast forward to Saturday, and the Panthers were the last team standing.

After wins over No. 3 Rattan and No. 7 Arapaho-Butler, the Panthers fell behind top-ranked Tushka 1-0 before scoring the next seven runs in a 7-2 win that gave the program its first-ever state championship. It was another example of how the Panthers did not let adversity faze them.

"They just show up in the biggest moments, and nothing scares them," head coach Cheyenne Graham said. "I just don't know how in the world I ever made that possible. I think they just took me along for the ride.

"I am so happy, so proud of each and every one of them."

Taking a 1-0 lead in the top half of the first inning was about all of the momentum Tushka could muster, and that momentum did not last long. In the bottom half of the inning, Am-Po senior Hayden Brown ripped the first of his three run-scoring hits and recorded the first two of his five RBIs to give the Panthers the lead for good.

Later in the game, Trace Barry and Brown delivered back-to-back run-scoring hits before a Kale Jones walk gave the team a 5-1 lead. Brown then blew the game open with a two-run base hit that pushed the team's lead to six runs in the fourth inning.

But it was not just the offense that stepped up. The defense stepped up behind Jackson Riley's performance on the mound.

Riley tossed all seven innings and closed the game out after Tushka got a second run on the board.

"I was just trying to throw strikes," he said. "I started to lose it for a second, but I found it."

Gaining experience

Amber-Pocasset got championship experience last season by advancing to the Class 2A state championship and falling just short against Silo. Graham said the energy was a little different the morning of Saturday's game compared to the 2023 season.

"I felt like when we got to the facility this morning, they were ready to go," Graham said. "Last year, they were a little too amped.

"Today, they just felt like they belonged."

And who happened to get the start on the mound in last season's championship game?


Riley said the experience from that game was beneficial and helped him close out this season's title game.

"I feel like it helped my nerves," he said.

The loss to Silo left Riley wanting to get back, and he just so happened to have the opportunity.

"I wanted it," he said.