By Blake Long/Special to the Journal
BELMONT – After the first three meetings on the baseball diamond between Kossuth and Belmont came down to one-run ball games, it was only fitting the same pattern continued Friday evening.
For the second night in a row, Kossuth scored the go-ahead run in their final at bat as the Aggies finished a sweep of Belmont in the MHSAA Class 3A North Championship series with a 1-0 win.
Kossuth (24-6) advances to next week’s 3A State Championship series, where they will face the winner between Southeast Lauderdale and St. Andrew’s Wednesday at 4 p.m. at Smith-Wills Stadium.
It will be the Aggies’ first-ever state championship appearance in baseball.
While each of the Aggies previous victories over Belmont were come-from-behind wins, neither team had touched the scoreboard entering the seventh inning.
In fact, Kossuth did not have a hit as Belmont pitcher Luke Alexander’s slider kept the Aggies off balance through six innings.
The first two Kossuth batters of the seventh reached base on a walk and a fielder’s choice when Alexander’s throw to second base was off on Blake Nethery’s bunt attempt.
Alexander (8-3) got the next two batters out before leadoff hitter John Mitchell broke up the no-hit bid on a chopper past a diving second baseman Isaac Sparks, scoring Nethery for the game winner.
“(Alexander) fought a hard battle the entire game,” Mitchell said. “I was waiting on the outside fastball. It’s my meat.”
Kossuth coach Daniel Threadgill pointed to the mental toughness of his team as the turning point of the game.
“They didn’t get down,” he said. “To me, that was the key to the entire game. Our mental state was ‘Yeah, these things just aren’t working out for us, but we’re gonna keep battling.’”
Bryson Cass led off the bottom of the third for Belmont (26-6-1) with a single and then tried to score from first on Alexander’s double in the gap.
A perfect relay throw from centerfielder Jordan Brawner to shortstop Heath Wood allowed Wood to gun Cass at the plate to end the Cardinals’ biggest threat.
“We pressed some things and tried to score and they made every throw and every play,” Belmont coach Andy Deaton said. “I felt like we had to score some runs, especially early.”
David Gibson (9-1) did not allow a base runner after the fourth inning and struck out nine Cardinals in earning the win.