RINGLING — In Ringling coach Steve Pybas’ 15 seasons at the helm of the program, the Blue Devils have won 11 district titles.
Its most recent was also its most difficult, Pybas said, as Velma-Alma gave Ringling all it wanted Saturday in Jefferson County.
Ringling converted two free passes into runs en route to a 7-0 win — and a district title.
Give Ringling’s starting pitcher credit.
“Lucas Lester pitched his tail off,” Pybas said. “He gave us exactly what we needed. It was a well-pitched game. He was in the strike zone and kept the ball down.
“This is by far the toughest district championship that we’ve had since I’ve been here.”
In the championship game, Ringling (20-3) won the coin toss opted to be the home team. The Blue Devils, ranked No. 19 in Class A, scored first in the opening frame.
Ricky Lewis was hit with a pitch, promptly stole second  base and took third on a passed ball.
Two hitters later, Zeb Willis drove him in with an RBI single.
Willis had a team-high four RBIs and paced his team with three hits in four at-bats.
The Blue Devils’ generally improved bunting allowed them a pair of insurance runs in the second inning.
Dakota Ridenour led off with a walk.
Barrett Morris bunted for a single. Dalton Swindler dropped down a sacrifice bunt to move both runners into scoring position.
Velma intentionally walked Ringling lead-off Ricky Lewis to load the bases, and C.J. Burks worked an RBI walk.
Willis grounded to Velma’s  third baseman, Ty Richardson, who attempted to throw out Morris at home — but dropped the ball.
Trevor Richardson grounded into a 3-2-3 double play to end the inning.
Nonetheless, Ringling led 3-0.
“Once we scored two or three runs, we kind of relaxed and we weren’t pressing at the plate,” Pybas said. “We had a lot better approach, had quality at-bats, in that second game.”
The Blue Devils began the third with a pair of singles, the latter of which was a beautifully executed bunt single by senior Austin Rogers.
Ridenour sacrificed both runners into scoring postion, but this time, Ringling couldn’t drive home the runners.
That was an aberration.
Ringling added two runs in the fourth. Against Velma pitcher Kelton Brown, the Blue Devils’ lead-off hitter reached base in each of the first four frames.
Lewis singled, then stole second, and C.J. Burks drove him in with an RBI double.
Willis grounded out, but it advanced Burks to third base, and Lucas Lester helped his cause with a sacrifice fly.
Ringling 5, Velma 0.
The Blue Devils added two runs in the fifth as Zeb Willis hit a two-run single.
“We manufactured some runs, and then we came through with some clutch hits, big two-out hits with runners in scoring position,” Pybas said.
“In the first game, we didn’t.”
To end the top of the fifth, Ridenour delivered a double play that got his teammates and coaches excited because it stranded a runner in scoring position and denied the Comets their best scoring opportunity.
The Blue Devils’ third baseman, Ridenour snared a liner hit by Velma’s Colby Martin — and doubled Colten Keck off third base.
Because Friday’s game(s) were due to inclement weather, Lester was available to pitch Saturday.
He threw a complete game, striking out four against three walks while scattering five hits.
“He said he felt good,” Pybas said. “He went six innings on Thursday, and pitched okay, but he pitched a lot better today.
“He had command of his curveball, and he just got ahead in the count.”
The Blue Devils will learn their regional assignment on Monday at noon. Ringling’s seven-man senior class will play another day: Rogers, Burks, Willis, Lestar, Trevor McKibban. Cole Harbin and Brodye Haragan get one more chance to win a state title.

Velma-Alma 3, Ringling 1 — Game 1
The Comets extended their season — and forced a championship game — with a 3-1 win Saturday afternoon.
“We came out flat, and struggled throwing strikes at times, got behind in the count,” Pybas said.
“Base running blunders cost us. It just kind of took the wind out of our sails, when we have a  chance to build on a 1-0 lead (in the first inning).”
Ringling scored its run on an RBI single by Richardson.
Two innings later, Velma scored the tying run, and scored two runs in the sixth — despite one hit.
The Comets took advantage of a pair of lead-off walks, and took their lead on a fielding error by Ridenour, at third base. and Lewis balked home a run.
Velma had four hits — all singles — in its victory.
The Comets drew six walks and had two hit batsmen.
“We didn’t play badly, but we didn’t play well enough to win,” Pybas said. “You’ve got to give credit to Velma. They came out and did a good job.
“Velma’s tough. They should be playing in a regional somewhere. We knew that we would have our wagons loaded.
“It’s satisfying and enjoyable, and I’m tickled to death for our seniors.”