Aurora Dawgs down Mt. Vernon Mt’neers for district title

Skylan Akins

Aurora celebrates with the district championship plaque after their 14-11 victory over Mt. Vernon. (Photos by Skylan Akins)

Aurora freshman Casen Brown unloads a fastball in the district semifinal game against Monett.

District mania has come and gone on the baseball field and the battle for the Class 4 District 11 title was as exciting as you could imagine. Of course it didn’t hurt that it was an all-Lawrence County battle to decide it all.
The excitement began on Monday where both Aurora and Mt. Vernon came into the game as underdogs but both emerged on top. Aurora led things off with a magical performance from a pair of young guns on the mound and overcoming adversity, they secured an 11-5 victory over top-seeded Monett in 10 innings in a rain drenched final three innings. Skies cleared ahead of the three-seeded Mt. Vernon showdown with second-seeded and host Seneca Indians. The dramatics weren’t nearly as evident as a 10-inning thriller but a solid 4-0 victory behind a two hitter from junior pitcher Brayden Jameson set up the backyard brawl district championship edition.

Mt. Vernon versus Aurora
The two teams reconvened in Seneca with a district championship plaque on the line. Aurora got first bats against Mt. Vernon ace Braden Dodson. Casen Brown and Max Holland were two of the stars from the night before and they jumped to good starts, as Brown was hit by a pitch and Holland reached on an error. Sean Creasy brought them both home with a two-RBI double. The Dawgs continued to threaten but Aurora was unable to scratch any more runs across. Dodson led off the bottom of the first inning with a single. A Sawyer Anderson sac bunt moved the runner into scoring position but a strikeout and a flyout ended the Mt. Vernon threat early. Dodson got his rhythm back in the second inning with a 1-2-3 inning. The Mt’neers opened the second inning with a leadoff double and it looked like they were cooking again, but a pop-out and a pair of ground balls stalled the inning and Aurora led 2-0 after two innings.
Aurora’s Heath Hoffman struck out to start the third inning but it got away from Sawyer Anderson and he reached base. After a strikeout, Michael Cutbirth and Jayden Carpenter each reached base via hit by pitch and a walk; the bases were juiced with just one out. Anderson struggled to corral another pitch from Dodson and Hoffman came across for the third run of the game. The Dawgs capitalized on a leadoff hit by pitch in the fourth inning before another RBI double by Creasy scored Gilliam for a 4-0 lead after the top of the fourth inning.
Mt. Vernon bounced back in the bottom of the fourth starting with Brayden Jameson reaching on a leadoff error. Lucas Ross and Jake Leeper loaded the bases with a single and another error with no one out. Payton Jones got the Mt’neers on the board with an RBI single. After a flyout and a fielder’s choice, Dodson struck with a two-RBI double that cut the deficit to just one run. Sawyer Anderson grounded out but still allowed the game tying run to come across. Raucher kept the inning rolling with an RBI single that gave Mt. Vernon a 5-4 lead. A fly out ended the threat.
Aurora may have been down but they still had plenty of fight left. Carpenter led off the inning with a hit by pitch. Brody Seitz and Kaden Cole each singled to load the bases with no one out. Gillium reached base on an error to tie the game back up at 5.
Casen Brown singled up the middle to extend the lead back to two before Max Holland had the play of the game. A bases clearing triple that scored three and the Dawgs were back up 9-5, still with no one out. Heath Hoffman and Sean Creasy followed up with back to back RBI doubles to extend the lead 11-5. Still no one out. Cutbirth made it nine straight hitters to reach base after an error to bring Carpenter back to the plate. However, a comebacker to the Mt’neer pitcher Payton Jones gave the Dawgs their first out of the inning. Seitz drew the first walk of the inning to put runners on the corners for Cole. Kaden shot one back up the middle to plate the ninth run of the inning. After another walk to load the bases, Carsen Brown grounded into an inning-ending double play, but not before Aurora took a 13-5 lead. Mt. Vernon had some work to do in the bottom half of the fifth inning and they got to a good start as Jake Leeper found his way on base thanks to an Aurora error two batters later, Gavin Johnston drove Leeper in with a RBI single to cut the lead back to 13-6.
Aurora continued attacking and took advantage of a walk and a single to add a run to their total, but Mt. Vernon wasn’t done either. Anderson and Raucher each picked up their second hit of the game with back-to-back singles. Raucher picked up a run. Jameson added another hit to drive Raucher in and the Mt’neers drew the game back within six. The Mt’neers would still strand two more runners and the score remained 14-8.
The Dawgs went down in order in the seventh inning but they were just three outs away from a district title. The Mt’neers were not going to go down silently. Johnston, Zerby and Dodson each singled to lead off the bottom of the seventh inning and loaded the bases. Anderson flew out to right field. Raucher hit a sac fly to plate Johnston to cut the deficit to 14-10. Jameson got another hit for his second that drove in another run. However, Lucas Ross would fly out to Carson Gillium and the Dawgs defeated the Mt’neers 14-11 for their fifth district title since 2016 and first since 2022.
Much like for Mt. Vernon head coach Nick Swillum, this is also the final go round for Aurora coach James Hoffman before he moves to a full-time administration role. Despite two state titles, this district title means a little more to him doing it with his son, senior Heath Hoffman.
“This one is way more special,” Hoffman said. “I mean the others were awesome because of what we knew we were going to accomplish. If you told me at the beginning of this year that we would be district champions, I’d probably just laugh at you. With our youth and with one of our big arms unable to throw due to injury it seemed unlikely. Then, like I talked about Saturday, it was resiliency. You saw it again after going up early, we fell behind thanks to a six spot then we responded with nine the next half inning. That’s just crazy.”
Hoffman was truly taken by the moment.
“Living to play another day and for these kids, it means a lot. That’s bigger than me getting to coach one more game, but it means a lot to me and getting to do it with my son is very very special,” Hoffman said of this victory while holding back tears.

Mt. Vernon’s future
Mt. Vernon’s season comes to an end at 17-11 after finishing their best season since they were 19-11 back in 2012. The Mt’neers will have a new look next year following the graduation of three starters and five seniors. They will have to find an answer to losing the production of Sawyer Anderson, Jake Leeper and Sean Raucher in the starting lineup, along with the senior leadership provided by Matthew Tennison and Brody Thompson. They will also be without coach Nick Swillum for the first time in two decades after his retirement will pass the mean green torch to Kyler Shoff in 2025.

Aurora’s future
The Dawgs record nearly mirrors the district championship score at 14-12 as they look to continue to build on a tremendous run as of late. They battled Nevada in the sectional round. A win against the Tigers would set up a quarterfinal bout against either Blair Oaks or Rogersville.
Other sports roundup

Mt. Vernon and Aurora boys tennis struggled to finish the season after earning the 4th and 5th seed in the district tournament. Mt. Vernon won the team contest in the opening round against the Dawgs 5-2 to advance to against the top seeded Monett Cubs, but fell 5-0 in the district semifinals.

The state track meet was last week and Lawrence County was well represented. In the Class 3 boys meet Aurora finished 39th as a team collecting nine points. Freshman Alex Johnson was a key factor by placing fourth in the 100m dash. Mt. Vernon did not fare as well as they finished 46th as a team collecting three points. Hunter Dawson collected all three points thanks to throwing the javelin 48.9m good for sixth place.
As for the girls, The Aurora Lady Houn’s had the highest finish at 31st with nine points.
In the Class 1 track meet, the Miller Cardinals finished 57th with two points.

Lawrence County golfers made it to the Class 4 State Golf tournament as both a Houn’ Dawg and Mt’neers got to compete several weeks back at Rivercut Golf Course. Mt. Vernon junior Carter Meirick finished 66th in class 4. He opened the tournament with an 83 in the first round before following up with an 89 for a 172 two day total. Aurora senior Luke Stellwagen was the lone Dawg represented. He improved after shooting a 91 on day one to shooting a 88 for a 179 two day total. He finished 75th in the tournament.


Lawrence County Record

312 S. Hickory St.
Mt. Vernon, MO, 65712


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