While the players on Fort Osage’s baseball team might have been kicking themselves for some missed opportunities at the plate that allowed for an extra inning against visiting Staley, Indians coach Chris Walker kicked himself for a little forgetfulness in that eighth inning.
After Fort Osage squandered a chance for a walkoff win in Thursday’s battle of Suburban Middle Seven unbeatens, a botched bunt play on defense fueled Staley’s six-run eighth inning for a 9-3 win.
The Indians’ Nico Pike had hurdled two perfect innings in relief of Jamison Raines, but he started the eighth by issuing a pair of walks. After Walker had a conference on the mound, Staley’s Matt Danbury laid a bunt down the first base line. Pike and first baseman Griffin Bledsoe converged to field it, and Pike picked it up and quickly threw to first.
The throw could’ve been in time, but nobody covered first base, and the go-ahead run came around to score. Cody Nutt followed with an RBI single, and Jack Duffy’s bunt toward third resulted in a hit and throwing error to make it 6-3. Landon Allen’s sacrifice fly and RBI singles from Conrad McMahon and Levi McLaughlin followed, and the visiting Falcons (11-3, 5-0 Middle Seven) had the Indians (6-6, 3-1) buried.
Walker pointed out that second baseman Chad Sutton had recently been moved from third, where he started for two seasons, and the coach forgot to remind Sutton for that particular bunt defense.
“That’s my responsibility; I needed to coach him up a little more,” Walker said. “Staley came out in the top of the eighth, made plays they needed to make and hit the ball.”
To get to the eighth, Staley pitcher Jared Lloyd recorded some clutch strikeouts. After Trevor Jeffries led off the seventh with a single and Bledsoe bunted him over, Lloyd fanned Austin Garcia and, after giving Sutton an intentional walk, Tyler Murphy.
Murphy, who had tripled in Sutton and scored on Ryan Toliver’s sacrifice fly in the first inning, said he was surprised the Falcons walked Sutton. In the fifth, with one out and Sutton on third base as the potential go-ahead run, Murphy also lashed a line drive the other way, right to the left fielder and too hard to score Sutton. Lloyd then induced a popup.
“We had opportunities to make plays, even myself up to hit,” said Murphy, who also got stranded on third base in the third inning. “It was just a little outside on me (in the fifth).”
Staley scored three batters into the game on John Oliver’s RBI single, tied things at 2 on Jacob Pfender’s leadoff homer in the fourth and took a short-lived lead on Oliver’s sacrifice fly in the fifth.
In bottom of the fifth, Lloyd hit Fort Osage first baseman Trent Thompson on the left side of the face. Thompson’s pinch runner, Micah Caldarella, came around to score the tying run on Sutton’s infield hit plus an errant throw to first.
Thompson had some blood on his face and said the pitch caught his teeth inside the cheek more than anything, but he stayed and watched the rest of the game with an ice bag pressed against his face.
Lloyd struck out eight and yielded five hits and a pair of walks in seven innings. Raines scattered six hits and three walks in five innings. Pike allowed two earned runs in 2 1/3 innings, with Murphy finishing on the mound.
“We had our opportunities, but my hat’s off to Staley for holding us off there in the bottom of the seventh,” Walker said. "Nico threw great. He’s used to throwing one inning, and I was trying to push him for three.
“I thought Jamison threw a great game. I took him out because he was around 90 pitches because of the (long) first inning.”
“I thought we played great today other than that last inning,” Murphy added, “but there’s still stuff we can improve on.”