The Houston County Bears are your 2023 AAAAAA State Champions! The black and silver swept the defending AAAAAA state champion Pope Greyhounds earlier tonight to claim their fourth state title in program history… all since 2014. This is how the Bears got it done against Pope…. Game One opened up with J. Stuetzer hitting a leadoff triple for the Greyhounds.
With one out on the board and runners on the corners… K. Schmidt lined out to left fielder Vick Gann and he threw to home plate and successfully got Stuetzer out at the plate to end the frame and keep the game tied at 0. HoCo went 0-for-6 on offense in the last of the first two innings until Elijah Smith hit a leadoff single in the last of the third.
The bases would eventually be loaded with one out on the board and Drew Burress would be walked to round the bases to plate the first run of the series when Elijah Smith came home. Andrew Dunford came in and hit a big two rbi single that ran in Ethan Buffone and courtesy runner Christian Wahiwe to give the black and silver a 3-0 lead.
Kai Decker would follow suit with a two rbi double to run in Drew Burress and Andrew Dunford to give the Bears a commanding 5-0 lead going into the fourth inning. With two outs on the board in the last of the fourth with runners at second and third…. Kai Decker hit an rbi single to run in Drew Burress and Andrew Dunford would come in to plate the seventh run via an error and Decker advanced to second.
Pope would fail to plate any runs through the fifth inning and the score remained 7-0 HoCo going into the top of the sixth. The Greyhounds made some noise in the first of the sixth when J. Myers hit a two rbi triple that ran in C. Kerce and K. Schmidt to cut the gap down to 7-2 Bears. J. Walter grounded out to short and J. Meyers scored to make the score 7-3 HoCo and that is where it would stand going into the last of the sixth.
Drew Burress hit an rbi double to run in Christian Wahiwe but Burress was thrown out at third for the second out of the frame but gave the black and silver an 8-3 lead going into the first of the seventh. Pope would only get one hit in the top half of the seventh as the Bears shut the door and took Game One 8-3 and take a 1-0 series lead.
HoCo SP Ryker Chavis surrendered three runs (all earned) on seven hits, walking two, and striking out six in a complete game on the mound. Kai Decker led the black and silver in rbis with three followed by Andrew Dunford and Drew Burress with two. Pope’s pitchers combined to surrender eight runs (seven earned) on seven hits, walking six, and striking out seven. J. Myers led the Greyhounds in rbis with two followed by J. Walter with one.
Pope was the designated home team for Game Two and the first two innings went scoreless. With one out on the board in the top half of the third and a runner at first…. Drew Burress hit an rbi double to run in Christian Wahiwe to give the black and silver a 1-0 lead. Andrew Dunford hit an rbi single to run in Burress to push the HoCo lead to 2-0 going into the last of the third.
The Greyhounds got on the board when J. Stuetzer hit a sac fly to center which ran in T. Morneau to make the score 2-1 in favor of the Bears going into the first of the fourth. The black and silver went right back to work on offense as Ty Waters was put in to pinch hit for shortstop Ethan Buffone and Waters hit an rbi single to run in Hunter Chiappetta to make the score 3-1 and Buffone was entered back in as a pinch runner for Waters.
Vick Gann would hit an rbi single to run in Ryker Chavis to give HoCo a 4-1 lead which is where it would stand going into the first of the fifth. An odd play happened when Kai Decker tried to steal second but was picked off for the second out and Kendall Jackson stole home to plate the fifth HoCo run going into the last of the fifth. Pope cut the gap down to 5-2 on a throwing error that ran in T. Morneau going into the first of the sixth.
Ethan Buffone would plate the sixth Bear run on a wild pitch and with two outs on the board… Andrew Dunford hit an rbi single to run in Vick Gann and Christian Wahiwe would be thrown out at home to end the frame and the score was now 7-2 in favor of the black and silver going into the last of the sixth. The Greyhounds would not go quietly as K. Schmidt would hit an rbi single to run in C. Kerce to cut the gap down to 7-3 with no outs on the board.
Drew Burress came in to relive SP Andrew Dunford with one out on the board in the last of the sixth. T. Morneau hit a fly ball to right fielder Kendall Jackson and he failed to make the grab and K. Schmidt scored to cut the gap down to three with one out on the board. HoCo would get a flyout to end the inning with the bases loaded going into the seventh inning.
The Bears went 1-2-3 quickly in the first of the seventh and they were now looking for three outs in the last of the seventh to try and claim their fourth state title. E. Overstreet would strike out swinging to put the first out on the board and C. Kerce would also strike out swinging to put two outs on the board with one out to get. K. Schmidt would hit a ground ball to second baseman Hunter Chiappetta who threw over to first baseman Will Allen to record the third out to win Game Two 7-4 and win the 2023 AAAAAA State Title and the black and silver all dogpiled just to the right of the mound to begin the celebration.
SP Andrew Dunford surrendered four runs (three earned) on five hits, walking one, and striking out six in 5 1/3 innings of work. Drew Burress surrendered no runs on no hits, walking none, and striking out three in 1 2/3 innings of relief work. Andrew Dunford led HoCo in rbis with two followed by Drew Burress, Ty Waters, and Vick Gann with one.
The Greyhounds’ pitchers combined to allow seven runs (six earned) on 14 hits, walking three, and striking out eight. J. Stuetzer and K. Schmidt each had an rbi for Pope. The Bears finished 2023 with a 36-6 overall record… a .857 win percentage in which the 36 wins are now the single season program wins record. Also, the black and silver broke the single season runs record as they recorded 348 runs in 42 games in 2023, the old record was 341 in 2021.
Pope finishes 2023 at 31-11 overall and are the AAAAAA runner-up in 2023. The Houston County Bears have claimed a state title in 2014, 2016, 2021, and now 2023.