After his Blue Springs South baseball team run-ruled Lee’s Summit North on a wind-swept day last week at South, coach Ben Baier was certain it would be a different game whenever the two teams met again.
North didn’t exactly turn the tables Friday in the championship game of the Eastern Jackson County Tournament at Lee’s Summit’s Legacy Park. But the Broncos came up with more clutch everything – hits, defense and pitching – to upend the Jaguars 7-4 for the title.
“They just got the better of us today,” said Blue Springs South shortstop Colton Pogue, who batted 3 for 4, including a solo home run in the seventh inning for the game’s final run. “We didn’t play a bad game, and they played well. We’re still playing well. They just out-hit us today and got runs when they needed.”
The most telling inning was the fifth, as the Broncos (10-10) plated six runs in the top half to take a 7-2 lead. South (15-6) starting pitcher Ethan Frazier walked a pair to lead off the inning, and Chase Swisher’s bunt moved them up.
Baier summoned left-hander Colton Larkins to pitch to the lefty-hitting Josh DeBacker, who dropped a two-strike offering into right field to tie the game. Matt Brumfield then slugged a two-run double to center field.
“(The younger guys on the team said) he threw a lot of good curveballs,” Brumfield said of Larkins. “The previous pitch was a fastball – it wasn’t a good pitch to hit – then I got a curveball and I knew I had to take a shot. I think the wind helped me a bit.”
Caleb Humphreys replaced Larkins after an intentional walk, but Nick Gavin, Dylan Carrender and Michael Marra added RBI singles before the third out.
Baier said Frazier (three hits, two walks, seven strikeouts in 4 1/3 innings) didn’t have a high count; he was simply trying for preferable matchup.
“We brought in a guy who does a good job against lefties,” Baier said. “I liked what we had – it just didn’t work out today. We use these games to see some stuff, and if it had worked out, we might’ve looked like the smartest people in the world.
“I coached DeBacker during the summer. Credit to him, he hit it just right there.”
South appeared poised for a big response in the bottom of the fifth, as singles by Jacob Clark, Pogue and Reece Eddins loaded the bases with no outs for Austin Simms, who for the second time got clipped by a pitch to force in a run.
North coach Jeff Diekmann elected to replace starting pitcher Nate Webb with Miles Kilgore, and the tall, lanky righty struck out Patrick Lemberger and induced Andrew Tritsch’s double-play grounder to Swisher at shortstop.
North took the lead in the second when Dylan Carrender reached on an infield error and moved around via stolen base, infield chopper and wild pitch.
South responded in the second when Nic Mertes’ hot shot single at the second baseman skirted away enough for Brandon Younkin to score from second, and Simms later was plunked for the first time with the bases full. Lemberger nearly made it 4-1, but North first baseman Andrew Warner made a leaping grab of his line drive for the third out.
“That was a big out,” Baier said. “Then the strikeout (in the fifth), that’s the just the way things go. We didn’t get it done today.”
Webb scattered seven hits over four innings for the win, while Kilgore allowed two hits and struck out three in three innings of relief.
“We put five games together and came away with the hardware,” said Diekmann, whose team entered the tournament with a 5-10 record. “We couldn’t get an out to save ourselves (in last week’s 16-4 loss at South), but Nate did a nice job through the first four, and Miles got us through the last three.
“We just let it go,” Brumfield added about last week. “We had played awful. If we had given it our all and lost, it would’ve been harder to come back today.”