Even if Tuesday’s loss in the first game of an American Legion doubleheader could provide a jolt for Blue Springs Rod’s Sports, A’s manager Mike Rooney wishes his team didn’t need such a jolt.
The Athletics' seventh-inning rally against visiting Sedalia Post 642 fell short, as Travelers reliever Austin Bullerd stranded the tying and winning runs to preserve a 5-4 decision. It marked the first loss in Zone 2 play for the A’s (21-2, 9-1) and their first loss overall since the season opening Byron White Memorial Day Tournament, but Rooney said his team hasn’t shown enough fire for the last week.
“It’s a shame we had to get a wake-up at all,” he said. “When all you do is show up, that’s what happens. We told them before the game, the longer you let them hang around, you have a better chance of losing.
“We’ve got older kids taking too many strikes and younger kids making fundamental errors. We’re not that good to be able to just turn it on and off. We have to give 150 percent every game.”
Sedalia (14-12, 3-6) scored three runs in the second off A’s starter Jeremy Lufft thanks to four straight hits, the last of them a two-run triple by Matt Miles.
But Lufft responded in the bottom half with a three-run double after the bottom third of the A’s order loaded the bases. That was part of a 4-for-4 day with three doubles for Lufft.
Back on the mound, the Travelers loaded the bases against Lufft in the third before reliever Jared Lafal induced a force-out at home and a pop-up to preserve the tie.
“I’m not an everyday pitcher, but normally I throw strikes,” Lufft said. “I just didn’t have it today, and my stride was off.
“Today was a good day (at the plate). I saw the ball really well.”
Lafal pitched commendably in relief, but the Travelers took the lead on Chance McMullin’s two-out RBI single in the sixth. David Stober replaced Lafal in the seventh after a leadoff single and walk, and two passed balls allowed the Travelers’ crucial fifth run to score.
The A’s got just three hits outside of Lufft, the last of them Stober’s RBI single in the seventh following Lufft’s third double. Corbin Hare followed with his fourth walk of the day (one of them intentional), but Bullerd got Lafal to line out to center and struck out Dillon Jackson after several foul balls to end it.
Taylor Schubert got the win for Sedalia, scattering five hits and four walks in six innings.
Lufft said Tuesday’s case of too-little-too-late happens many times in baseball, and the fact the A’s had a chance to go right back out and split a doubleheader should be beneficial.
“Hopefully we can take that last inning into the next game with the same approach,” he said. “I think this loss will help, because we know we have something to lose. You can’t lose league games.”