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By RICK PETERSON

TopSports.news

No. 2 West seed Topeka High faced supreme challenges in both of its games in Tuesday's Class 6A baseball regional at Hummer Sports Park.

But after ending a state tournament drought of more than seven decades in 2023, the Trojans weren't going to be denied in their bid for a return trip to state, rallying for a 9-6 win over No. 15 seed Wichita East in the semifinals and eeking out a 2-1 victory over No. 10 Derby in the championship game.

THighbaseball 1Topeka High baseball poses for a team picture after capturing its second straight Class 6A state berth with a 2-1 win over Derby Tuesday at Hummer Sports Park. [Photo by Rick Peterson/TSN]

THighbaseballregionals 1Topeka High baseball coach Cody Miller accepts the Class 6A regional championship trophy from High principal Dustin Dick Tuesday night at Hummer Sports Park. [Photo by Rick Peterson/TSN]

"This team plays with a lot of heart and they don't quit, ever, so I think that was pretty much on display in that first game because we didn't have it early on and we didn't play very well at all, but we turned it on and that was a great effort,'' Topeka High coach Cody Miller said.

Topeka High fell behind 6-0 against Wichita East, who the Trojans had just swept in a twinbill last Thursday, before scoring nine straight runs to advance to the final.

"It's so difficult to beat a team three times in one season and we had just shown them our two arms four days before,'' Miller said. "We knew they were going to be ready to go and they were going to try and knock us off and they played great, too, so hats off to them.''

And fired up by that come-from-behind win Topeka High never trailed in the championship game, getting the only two runs it would need on a two-run double in the bottom of the third from sophomore Drayden Acosta and then riding the pitching of senior ace Nate Plankinton with last-out help from first-game starter Hank Stamper to close out the victory and punch its ticket to next week's 6A state tournament at Hoglund Stadium on the campus of the University of Kansas.

"I was telling the guys, it might not seem like it, but it's so rare to go back to back years and I hope they enjoy it because it's a really special thing for us to do and I'm so proud of those guys,'' Miller said.

Plankinton picked up the pitching wins in both games, coming on in relief of Stamper in the fourth inning of the semifinal and pitching through the sixth before senior Matt Genrich, the Trojans' shortstop, came on in the seventh to close out the win, surviving a bases-loaded situation in the Blue Aces' final at bat.

"I'm going to be honest, the first three innings we looked like we were done for and I was like, 'No way this is how our season ends,' '' Plankinton said. "Then we got a rally going and hitting's contagious and we got it going and got the job done. We fed off that and took it into the second game and took the energy into the second game.'' 

Plankinton returned to start the second game and made judicial use of his 105-pitch count to work through six and two-thirds innings before Stamper returned to get the final out, prompting a celebration dogpile by the Trojans.

"The second game I already had 24 pitches coming in, but I didn't think anything about it, I really didn't,'' Plankinton said. "I was just pitching my game and if you would have seen me before the game I was just so fired up.

"I couldn't sit down, I was pacing back and forth. I knew the outcome of this game before it started. I knew what I was going to do, I was feeling myself and they didn't know who I was, so I had to prove it to them.''

CLASS 6A REGIONAL BASEBALL

At Hummer Sports Park 

Semifinal

TOPEKA HIGH 9, WICHITA EAST 6

Wichita East (7-19) 111 300 0 -- 3 8 1

Topeka High (16-4)   000 153 x -- 9 11 4

Kayden Morrison, Elijah Hodges (5), Mikey Birzer (6) and Canon Cole. Hank Stamper, Nate Plankinton (4), Genrich (7) and Lee Gonzales. W -- Nate Plankinton. L -- Elijah Hodges. 2B -- Wichita East: Canon Cole. Topeka High: Nate Plankinton 2, Matt Genrich. 3B -- Topeka High: Isaiah Kincade.  

Championship

TOPEKA HIGH 2, DERBY 1

Derby (12-16)         000 001 0 -- 1 5 0

Topeka High (17-4) 002 000 x -- 2 3 1

Caden Riojas and Ethan Crawford. Nate Plankinton, Hank Stamper (7) and Lee Gonzales. W -- Plankinton. L -- Caden Riojas. 2B -- Derby: Caden Riojas. Topeka High: Drayden Acosta 2.   

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