KINGMAN – The No. 15-ranked Kingman Academy baseball team’s state tournament hopes are simple: Win and the Tigers are in.
Kingman Academy did just that Friday against Parker with a 5-2 victory at Southside Park, but it still needs another win Tuesday at Parker to clinch the 2A West Region and a guaranteed bid to state.
“We had to have this win,” Tigers baseball coach Bill McCord said. “We won and now we’re looking at Tuesday. We got to have it to get to the (state) playoffs. That’s all there is to it.”
The duo of Kannon Butler and Donald Tatham played a big role in Kingman Academy taking one step closer to a region title. Butler blasted a two-run homer in the third inning that gave the Tigers a 3-1 lead they never surrendered.
“Off the bat, I thought it was going to be hard contact in the gap. Maybe a double,” Butler said. “It just kind of sailed out. I think we have a little bit of a Jetstream flowing out to right today. So it kind of caught that and carried it out.”
Tatham, meanwhile, went a perfect 3-for-3 at the plate to help his own cause on the mound. The junior yielded just one earned run on five hits with four strikeouts and no walks in six innings of work. While some players would fold under the weight of a must-win game, that isn’t the case for Tatham.
“It’s a good feeling to have the pressure on your shoulders,” he said. “But you just have to go out there and do your best for your team.”
Tatham and Butler weren’t the only contributors though, as Bradley Hecker went 3-for-4 and Braden Judd drove in a run for the Tigers.
Kingman Academy took care of business Friday, but McCord did mention it has underachieved during other games this season. The Tigers made sure that didn’t happen in crunch time though.
“We’ve been in spots where we’ll play down to competition,” McCord said. “We know this is a team to beat and they didn’t want to play down. They know they have to come in fired up.”
With its state tournament hopes on the line, Kingman Academy wasted little time to start the game. The Tigers took an early 1-0 lead on Judd’s sacrifice fly to plate Levi Garcia, who reached on a leadoff walk.
Kingman Academy then exploded for four runs in the third inning, highlighted by Butler’s two-run shot.
The Tigers added the other two runs on a Parker throwing error, as Adam Chastain and Tatham came around to score for a 5-1 advantage.
“(Butler’s homer) definitely energized our offense,” McCord said. “Then Wyatt (Hall) came up and hit that little chopper up the middle and (Parker) threw one away and gave us a couple of runs. That helped us out a little. We had some pretty good hitting today. I was pretty proud of that.”
The Tigers (13-5, 8-1 in 2A West) return to the field at 3:45 p.m. Tuesday for a winner-take-all game at Parker. A loss would leave Kingman Academy’s state playoff hopes in the hands of the AIA selection committee.