SHAWNEE — Dale coach Jerry Sanford's plan worked to perfection. Again.
The Pirates will throw their ace, senior left-hander Evan Anderson, in the Class 2A state title baseball game Saturday afternoon at Ed Skelton Field.
Gunning for their 11th spring state baseball title, Dale advanced to the finals behind Jace Wilkins, who tossed a 1-hitter through six innings of an 8-2 win over Colbert on Friday afternoon.
Including fall state tournaments, this will be the fifth time Anderson has pitched in a state championship game. The Ole Miss signee is 3-1 in the finals, his lone loss to Wister two years ago in the spring title game his sophomore year.
“It's a pretty incredible deal to get to pitch all those championship games,” Anderson said. “It will be a tough game, but if we play like we did (Friday), hit the ball and play defense, we'll have a really good chance.”
Anderson slammed a two-run homer and pitched a 1-2-3 seventh inning to nail down Friday's win over Colbert (27-7). The tall, lanky left-hander will pitch his final game for Dale on Saturday afternoon against Silo, which reached the finals with a 13-1, run-rule win over Caney Valley.
In a single-elimination tournament, it can be risky to save your ace, but that's been Sanford's philosophy throughout Anderson's career.
Wilkins did his part by allowing only one hit, a Dakota Graham double in the second.
“This was our game plan from the start,” Sanford said. “We threw Big Red (Dalton Tillison) in the first round and Jace today. Jace did a heck of a job other than that one inning he lost his mind. He was rocking along, mowing them down, then all of a sudden kapooey. Sometimes that happens.”
Dale first baseman Hunter Pinkston helped stake the Pirates to a 6-0 lead with a two-run triple in the first and an RBI single in the third. Designated hitter Colt Manship tripled in a run and scored to add two insurance runs in the seventh.
The Leopards (27-7) closed to within 6-2 in the sixth when Wilkins got wild, both runs scoring even though Colbert never put the ball in play. Wilkins walked four and hit a batter, but Sanford stayed with the junior right-hander.
“I wasn't too worried,” Sanford said. “He wasn't too far off. He was around the plate. I felt we had the momentum. We just needed someone to hit the ball and let us make a play.”
As they have four previous times during his career, the Pirates (29-4) will hand the ball to Anderson with a state title on the line.
“We've got our No. 1. He's ready to go,” Sanford said. “Things are lined up. Now all we've got to do is go do it.”
Silo 13, Caney Valley 1
The Rebels sent 11 hitters to the plate in a six-run second to coast to a 13-1, five-inning, run-rule win over Caney Valley.
Silo (31-5) rapped out 13 hits. Third baseman Leonard Sandler was 2-for-2 with three RBIs, a two-run triple in the first and an RBI single in a five-run third.
Rebels designated hitter K.C. Walls supplied a two-run single in the second. Jarris Hamilton was 2-for-2 with an RBI. Catcher Andrew Bolin had two hits and scored three runs.
Silo freshman left-hander Trenton Long picked up the win. Long came on in the second inning to work out of a jam that preserved a 2-1 lead. Improving to 3-1, Long pitched the final 3/13 innings.