By Greta Klein
The loud cheers from Eck Stadium said everything about the championship game between the Hutchinson Monarchs and the Santa Barbara Foresters. Not even knowing if they would make it to the National Baseball Congress World Series, the Monarchs found themselves playing for the championship.
On Aug. 12, the Monarchs came out on top, winning 6-3 against the Foresters in the NBC World Series championship game.
Several Hutchinson Community College baseball players contributed to making up the Monarchs. Derick Johnson, Blake Bradford, Reed Scott, Will Edmunson and Cole Toureau all played in the NBC championship game. The coaching staff for the Monarchs consisted of head coach Casey Lippoldt and assistant coach Ryan Pinkall.
The 2023 season was Lippoldt’s first year as head coach for the Monarchs. He was the assistant coach for two years before and was an original Monarch player in the 2009 and 2010 season.
Despite not coaching for a while, Pinkall is still able to interact with his players, just in a different atmosphere. Pinkall, a biology assistant professor at HutchCC, has definitely made an effort with his student-athletes and become a strong member of the Monarch team.
“I used to play baseball with Casey and we also coached together for an American Legion team in Pratt,” Pinkall said. “When Casey stepped up and became the head coach for the Monarchs he was looking for some help and knew I was in Hutch. We had some history so he asked me to help out.”
The first half of the season did not turn out the way the team hoped for.
“After the first half (of the season), it was a little rough because we didn’t have many pitchers so everybody was tired and worn out,” Toureau said.
The Monarchs’ record for the first half of the season was 7-11. “(After the Jayhawk League All-Star Break) the players had a different mentality, and so I think the first half of the season and being frustrated kinda sparked them into doing something different. Their mentality was completely different coming back and that helped me and Casey also determine where we can put people,” Pinkall said.
Turning the second half of the season around, the Monarchs went 13-6.
“We were looking forward to the second half as a ball club” Toureau said. “Then once we got the second half, we wanted to go to the NBC, and it was a no brainer for us so we were really looking forward to just trying to win every game we possibly could. And once we finally got towards the end of it we knew that there were games that we had to win and we won the games we had to.”
As the season continued to improve for the Monarchs, there was more of a chance that even with the losing record to start the season, the team could still make it to the NBC World Series. The team finished the regular season with a 20-17 record, qualifying them to their 12th NBC World Series.
“I was excited but then I was also ready to get going and play in the NBC,” Bradford said.
After winning their pool, they went into a single- elimination bracket, advancing to the championship game for the first time in team history. The Monarchs matched up against Santa Barbara, the three-time defending NBC champions who were riding a 20-game NBC winning streak. This became a special game not only because the Monarchs were considered the underdogs, but this was the third time that these two teams met up during the NBC in history.
During the championship game, Toureau threw 7 2/3 innings against an all NCAA Division 1 lineup, dominated by players from Power Five programs, and allowed just two runs. The Monarchs never trailed after Edmunson’s two-run double in the bottom of the fifth inning.
Even though the Monarchs knew people considered them as the underdog team, this did not faze the players whatsoever.
“I think it’s just a known fact that in baseball, anybody can beat anybody. It doesn’t matter if you’re the first team in or the last team in, you can still win,” Bradford said.
This championship proved that despite all odds, the Monarch emerged victorious.
“It was really cool, I didn’t know that we were the first Monarchs team to be in the championship. It was exciting and I hope we can lead it to more and more Monarch championships,” Toureau said. No matter the situation or record the Monarchs had, they stayed together as a team and battled for the NBC National championship title.