Chalk it up to it just being the first game at the state tournament.


Chalk it up to it just being the first game at the state tournament.

For whatever reason, the top-seeded St. Mary’s Colgan Panthers were a little rusty to start their first-round matchup with Moundridge. But, after the dust settled, a 6-run fifth inning gave the Panthers all they needed as they took care of the eighth-seeded Wildcats, 6-1 at Soden’s Grove in Emporia.

Panther third-baseman Joe Saia cranked out a grand slam home run in the bottom of the fifth to put the Panthers over the top as senior pitcher Aaron Snow threw a complete-game 3-hitter for the win.

“The first game is always the toughest to play,” Colgan coach Mike Watt said. “It’s huge, and I’ve always had to come out and throw a senior pitcher.”

And Snow did not disappoint as he threw 93 pitches — 66 for strikes — and struck out 11 en route to the win.

“He was awesome, and that is what I’ve come to expect from him,” Watt said.

A pair of fielding errors allowed Moundridge to strike first in the second after Lane Barton and Daniel Ratzlaff reached on back-to-back fielding errors for the Panthers. A groundout by freshman Cooper Wedel allowed the Wildcats to score the first run of the game — giving coach Russ Rocheford and his squad a bit of confidence.

“I felt like, after those errors, we had a chance to pull one out here,” Rocheford said. “I told the guys before the game that there was no pressure on us ... it was all on them.”

Wedel did his best to hold to that as the right-hander held the Panthers off-balance with a mixture of off-speed and curveballs.

“They had a pitcher that did a great job,” Watt said. “We didn’t do a very good job of adjusting.”

That was until the fifth inning.

The Panther bats awoke after a bunt single from Jesse Newcomb and walks to Winston Slavens and Nate Arnold loaded the bases. Jesse Watt drew an RBI base-on-balls and Dylan Mjelde followed up with a walk. Then, Joe Saia belted out a grand slam that cleared the left-field corner of the field, measuring out at 325 feet.

“We were able to execute and get our bunts down and Joe came up with that big grand slam,” Watt said.

Snow sealed the win by retiring the side in the last three innings of the game.

Colgan will play in the semifinals at 10 a.m. today at Soden’s Grove.

Mound. 010 000 0 —1 3 1

Colgan 000 060 x —6 4 3

Cooper Wedel, Austin Neufeld (5) and Ethan Blouin. Aaron Snow and Nate Arnold. WP — Snow (1-0). LP — Wedel (0-1). LOB — Moundridge 4, Colgan 5. HR — SMC, Joe Saia.