SYRACUSE — Jeff Bearnson, the only head baseball coach that Syracuse High has ever had, decided this would be his final year of guiding the Titans' program.
So on Thursday, this team he loves so much and this program that he built from a lowly, laughable cellar dweller into a strong, proud title contender gave him a sweet little going-away present — a share of the Region 1 championship, the first one in school history.
With two outs in the bottom of the eighth inning, sophomore outfielder Kole Tracy laced a double down the left-field line, and freshman designated hitter Chase Bauerle then lined a sharp single to right-center field to bring Tracy racing home with the winning run in a tense 4-3 victory over Davis in the two teams' regular-season finale.
"It felt good," said Bauerle, who when asked if he'd ever had a bigger base hit in his life answered, "No, uh-uh, definitely not, uh-uh, first time.
"(The Davis pitcher) just threw me a curveball outside and I came up with it. ... I hit it solid up the middle and I knew it was there.
"It feels good just sending all 12 of these seniors off with a region championship. I mean these guys are like brothers and it just feels good to do it for them. I mean, there's not a better way to do it," he said.
With the dramatic win, Syracuse improves to 8-2 in Region 1 and 9-8 overall, earning the league's top seeding in the 5A state tournament that begins next week.
Davis, which had won or shared the last three league titles and appeared well on its way to another one before losing three of its last four games, wound up in third place in the Region 1 race at 7-3.
The Darts, who left 15 men on base, got RBIs from Gage Cook and Bronson Larsen, and Kyle Godderidge had three hits, scored a run and made a couple of great catches in left field. But Davis left the bases loaded in both the sixth and seventh innings and fell to 18-5 overall with the frustrating defeat.
Syracuse scored three first-inning runs on RBI singles by Rieley Gibson and Sawyer Morain and a Davis error, but the Titans were then blanked for the next six innings by Davis starter Zac Fuller.
Fuller exited after the seventh inning, and Gage Cook came on and got the first two outs in the eighth before Tracy bounced his game-changing double over the third-base bag.
"I hit a curveball. I had a lot of curveballs all day and finally one dropped a little higher in the zone," Tracy said. "So I turned on it and it went right up the line.
"With two outs, I knew anything hit I was taking off and that one I knew was a good one and I had a good chance to score on it.
"It feels good," he said of the region title. "We've been battling the last couple of years and been right there, really close, so it's nice to finally do it."
Coach Bearnson recalled starting the Syracuse program seven years ago — how the Titans won just one game their first year, two their second season and four in their third year — and wondering whether he should've taken the job in the first place.
Thus, he takes great pride in seeing how far the program has come since then, especially after he challenged this year's team when it started the season slowly while playing a very difficult early schedule.
"The thing I'm proud of more than anything is they're tough; they don't ever get down," he said. "They act really big. Things could go bad but they don't let it get bad. I think that's a characteristic that's really hard to teach, but these guys have got it. They get it. They like each other. That's the best part about it, and I love it — they like each other, and that's a team.
"Good accomplishment for us, good accomplishment for those boys more than anything. Our pitching's been incredible. Our defense has been incredible. ... And we swing it. We're pretty good. ... The top of our order is pretty dangerous.
"... I love these guys. I love these guys and the situation of me stepping down this year and this being my last year with it — it's neat," Bearnson said. "... I'm proud of everything that's happened here, and I couldn't have done it without these kids, because I'm tough to play for because I'm loud; I'm aggressive; I get into people a little bit. But they take it and they don't mind it. They don't shy away from it. I think they do know I love 'em. I know that for a fact. So I'm really happy for 'em."
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