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Kellar Davis pitches Licking past South Callaway in Missouri Class 3 title game

Wildcats win with three-run second inning, strong pitching and defense

OZARK, Mo. – Kellar Davis was choking back tears in the first inning of Licking’s Missouri Class 3 championship game against South Callaway on Thursday afternoon.

The Wildcats’ junior right-hander returned to the same mound, nearly 11 months later, after he was struck in his right temple with a batted ball while pitching for his Midwest Mavericks summer team, a traumatic incident that required a craniectomy to relieve bleeding in his brain.

His dramatic return on Wednesday was not only triumphant but historic. Davis tossed a complete game to help Licking beat South Callaway 3-1at Sky Bacon Stadium and win the school’s first state championship since 1989.

“It’s pretty surreal,” Davis said. “Battling to come back this whole offseason after the brain surgery and everything. It was a pretty insane feeling. That was my first time stepping back on that mound. This is where it happened last summer. So to get back out there, there’s a lot of emotions. I was choking back a lot of tears the first inning.”

“When I got through it, I walked in the dugout and I told one of my guys I’m finishing this game I promise. I don’t break my promises, so it was pretty cool to come through for the team.”

Davis finished the game in style. He struck out the first two batters in the bottom of the seventh, his seventh and eighth strikeouts of the game, and then retired the final batter on a flyout as Licking (27-6) celebrated its first state title since the Wildcats won back-to-back Class 2A championships in 1988 and 1989.

“It means a ton,” Davis said. “I came to this school this year and settled in with these guys. It’s the best group of dudes I’ve ever been with. They just accepted me with open arms. We’ll go out and goof around, go fish, hang out. They’ve really helped me in ways that they don’t know about and I really appreciate every one of them. It’s been pretty awesome.”

Licking junior pitcher Kellar Davis

Licking junior pitcher Kellar Davis tossed a complete game in the championship.

South Callaway (26-8), which was seeking its third state championship and first since 2017, out-hit Licking, five to three, but after scoring in the fourth inning the Bulldogs couldn’t generate the timely hits needed to rally from their two-run deficit.

The Wildcats' bulldog, Davis, kept the Bulldogs' lineup off-balance.

“Throwing strikes was the big thing and also keeping them off-balance mixing in his two breaking pitches that he has, throwing high, throwing low, and not afraid to let them make contact and get themselves out," Licking catcher Malachi Antle said. "He just was a bulldog today. He fought through some adversity having some runners on and giving up that one run, but he was stone-faced. Nothing phased him. He just went in there and was a bulldog today.”

Licking's three-run second inning that included two errors and just one hit – senior center fielder Cole Wallace drove in two runs with a single to right – proved to be too much South Callaway to overcome thanks to Davis and strong defense play behind him.

“A lot of times in games like that the team that can get on top early has an advantage,” Licking coach Harv Antle said. “It allows you to relax a little bit and play with confidence and just go about your business and you don’t start to press and force the action. Big knock there (in the second inning) and later a huge play in the gap by Cole Wallace in center field to run down a ball near the track and keep them where they were. Plays like that in key moments all the way through made the difference.”

The victory was especially sweet for the Wildcats’ veteran coach, having two of his sons on the team – Malachi, a senior catcher, and Silas, a junior first baseman.

“We worked really hard and when we got out of the district we just kept that same fire and thought ‘Why not us?’ It’s pretty exciting,” Malachi Antle said. “The last state title was in ’89 and the last time we won a district was 20 years and we broke both of those big streaks. I couldn’t be prouder of my whole team up and down.”

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