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The Gazette KCRG
Posted July 30, 2011
Solon goes back-to-back with 6-1 win over Harlan

Solon players pile on pitcher Brandon Shulista after beating Harlan for the Class 3A championship at Principal Park on Saturday, July 30, 2011, in Des Moines, Iowa. The Spartans won, 6-1. (SourceMedia Group News/Jim Slosiarek)


DES MOINES — Everyone needs a humility check once in awhile.

Solon’s came in late June, when it dropped a home doubleheader to Davenport Assumption. Those were the first losses of the season for a championship ballclub with everyone returning.

“We needed to lose,” Solon Coach Keith McSweeney said. “A lot of people talk about going undefeated, but that was never the coaching staff’s goal. We don’t need any more pressure than what there is already playing this game. I think losing at that time of year allowed us to regroup. There were a lot of teachable moments that night.”

And lessons eventually learned. Proof came Saturday night when Solon beat Harlan, 6-1, at Principal Park for the Class 3A state baseball championship.

It’s back to back for the Spartans, last year’s 2A winner. Solon is the second school in the 66-year history of this tournament to win consecutive titles in different classes.

“We were starting to get sloppy and starting to get ahead of ourselves,” Solon shortstop Nick Day said. “We were kind of just showing up and not coming ready to play. Those losses really taught us a lesson. After that, we got focused again. We knew we weren’t going to win the whole thing is we kept playing like that.”

They won the whole thing again playing like, well, champions. This was such an appropriate ending for Day and the other nine seniors on the team, many of whom enjoyed success in other sports.

“As kids, we grew up doing everything,” said pitcher Brandon Shulista. “Thankfully we worked at everything and were able to have success in high school.”

Shulista (10-0) gave up an earned run for the first time since June 8 when Harlan (21-15) scored on back-to-back two-out hits in the bottom of the first inning. But Solon (39-4) went ahead for good with a four-run third highlighted by Marshall Koehn’s two-run triple off the fence in left-center.

Koehn actually ran off Travis Brimeyer at third base. McSweeney was forced to send Brimeyer home with Koehn within a few feet of him, and he slid in safely.

Derrick Loveless followed with an RBI infield hit to score Koehn.

“Coach was (holding him) at first, and I was like ‘Crap,’” Koehn said. “I thought I was hung out to dry. But then he sent him, and it ended up working out.”

Solon made it 5-1 with an Austin Dall double and Koehn run-scoring single. Dall, the lone junior in the starting lineup, went 7-for-9 at this tournament as the eighth-place hitter.

Shulista – who finished with a nine-strikeout four-hitter – helped himself out with an RBI single in the seventh to close the scoring. He struck out the side in the bottom of the inning, ending up at or near the bottom of a huge celebratory dog pile.

“We just had to come out and play the game,” Day said. “We knew we had a pretty good shot.”

As far as the standouts on this team, Day will play next season at Iowa, Shulista at Iowa Central Community College, Center fielder Loveless also has signed with Iowa, though word is he likely will end up signing a professional contract with the Toronto Blue Jays, who drafted him in June.

A special group, for sure.

“It hasn’t always been like this,” McSweeney said. “So the people who have been around Solon for a long time understand this is a special (time). I know I don’t take it for granted.”


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