GHS Bulldogs bring home district title in 12-inning thriller, beat Richland in sectionals

The Gainesville High School Bulldogs beat the Seymour Tigers on Friday, May 21, to bring home the school’s first district championship in 30 years. The Bulldogs went on to play Richland for the sectional title on Monday, May 24, and rolled over the Bears 11-1. Gainesville is hosting the regional game at 5:30 p.m. today, Wednesday, May 26, and will take on the Marionville Comets. Members of the Bulldogs team are, from left, (front row) Wyatt Alms, Danny Sherry, Camden Evans, Jarett Hogan, Jake Leeker, Wyatt Walker, Dymon Van Eperen, Brady Myers; (back row) Nathan Kiger, coach Blake Hobbs, Briar Walrath, Andrew Hambelton, Landry Jenkins, Bryce Hambelton, Aden Yarger, Daden House, Kannon Morrison, Cooper Friend, Bryant Neel, assistant coach Austin Thompson and Bryson Martin. Photo courtesy of Karla Smith.

The Gainesville Bulldogs are among the top eight teams in Missouri Class 2 baseball and now hold a 20-8 record after beating Seymour in districts and Richland in sectionals. It’s a historic time for Bulldog baseball fans, and for the first time in decades, Gainesville will host a state playoff game when the Bulldogs take on the Marionville Comets in regional action tonight.

It had been 30 years since a Gainesville High School baseball team had won a district championship trophy, but that all changed Friday night, May 21, when first-year coach Blake Hobbs led his Bulldogs to a 4-2 win over the Seymour Tigers. It took 12 tense innings before sophomore Wyatt Alms stepped up to the plate and ended the game on a walk-off two-run home run.

“Wyatt came up huge in the 12th,” Hobbs said. “He hadn’t had the best day before this, though. He was 0-5 with three strikeouts, but he did an amazing job moving on and forgetting about his previous at-bats. He knew that the last at-bat was all that mattered.”

On 0-1, Alms smashed a low fastball over the left field fence to win the game.

Alms’ home run drove in Gainesville’s Jake Leeker, who was on base with a walk. Leeker, a junior, had already had a great game, pitching 7.1 innings with nine strikeouts, allowing six hits and two earned runs. “Jake was really good on the mound,” Hobbs said. 

Dymon VanEperen pitched two innings for the Bulldogs, allowed one hit, had zero runs and three strikeouts.

Sophomore pitcher Aden Yarger got the win, pitching 2.2 innings with one strikeout, allowing zero hits and zero runs. “Aden came in the 10th inning and picked up a huge double play to get us out of a tough first-and-third situation, which in my opinion, was a big difference maker,” Hobbs said.

Offensively, Leeker was 1-3 with two runs scored. Yarger was 1-4 with an RBI. Briar Walrath was 2-4 with a double, and Dymon Van Eperen was 1-5 with a run scored.

“I’m proud of all these boys. They fought the entire game,” said Hobbs. “Their hard work and perseverance showed Friday night, and I hope it continues to show the rest of the playoffs.”

It was 1991 when the Bulldogs won their last district championship. That team was coached by Jerry Premer. Team members were Bobby Anderson, Walker Blackburn, Todd Brown, Justin Guffey, Dwight Luna, William Mahan, Kevin Merglewski, Larry Miller, Mike Miller, Marty Morrison, Paul Morrison, Travis Morrison, Chris Owens, Chris Strong and Wes Uchtman.

The Bulldogs traveled on Monday to Richland to take on the Richland Bears in the first round of the Class 2 state tournament and brought home the sectional trophy. The Bulldogs rolled over the Bears, starting with a three-run home run by Jake Leeker in the bottom of the second inning. The Gainesville boys never looked back and routed the Bears 11-1. 

“The boys played awesome Monday,” Hobbs said. “The biggest factor in the game was scoring six runs on two outs in the second inning. This was helped by the long, three-run home run by Jake Leeker.”

Leeker was 4-4 with three RBIs, a double and a home run. Andrew Hambelton was 1-3 with two RBIs and a double. Landry Jenkins was 1-3 with two RBIs, and Briar Walrath was 1-2 with an RBI and a double.

“Andrew Hambelton was awesome on the mound,” Hobbs said. “The freshman showed confidence the entire game.” 

Hambelton pitched five innings of the game, allowed only four hits and one earned run and had six strikeouts and only one walk.

The win advances the team to the quarterfinals. They take on the Marionville Comets at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Gainesville Ball Park.

The Comets hold a 20-6 record on the season so far. The winner of the game will get to play in the Class 2 state final four. 

Ozark County Times

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