Watch enough baseball games and you come across innings that could be classified as “strange” or “unusual.”
However, few could match the sixth and seventh innings of Blue Springs Post 499 Fike’s 6-5 win over the Ada (Okla.) Braves in the teams’ final American League Orange Division games of the American Legion Wood Bat Invitational at Hidden Valley Park.
In a game in which each team committed five errors, Fike (24-5 overall) overcame its defensive yips enough and made the Braves pay for three of theirs to finish a perfect 4-0 in pool play and earn a spot in today’s championship quarterfinals.
Fike, which plays St. Peters Post 313 at Hidden Valley’s Jim Moran Field, scored its initial run in the fourth and the tying and go-ahead runs in the sixth without the benefit of a single hit. Then, Post 499 watched Ada run into half of its last six outs past first base.
“That was the most bizarre sixth and seventh innings that I’ve seen in a long time,” said Moran, the longtime Fike manager. “We gave them some runs – uncharacteristic errors – but we came back and took advantage of theirs. They ran themselves into two outs, but we had to make the plays.”
Fike trailed 3-1 entering the sixth inning, but the craziness didn’t start until after leadoff hitter Cale Benson lifted a home run just over the fence inside the left-field pole.
With two outs, Nate Pecota drew a walk from Ada starter Tucker Elliot and swiped second. When ball four to Braden Younkin skipped to the backstop, Pecota broke for third and the catcher’s throw sailed into left field, allowing Pecota to scramble home with the tying run.
Younkin sprinted for second on that throw, and when the left fielder’s throw skipped all the way into foul territory, Younkin had enough time to race around and slide in for a 4-3 lead.
“(Benson’s homer) sparked a little something,” Pecota said. “We just tried to string something together.
“I was just waiting, anticipating it,” he said of the wild pitch. “I thought it might be in the dirt. I was just trying to get to third, and it snowballed.”
The Braves had the potential tying run at second in the bottom half, but Nic Mertes threw him out trying to steal third on a strikeout.
Fike then tacked on two important runs in the seventh. Pinch hitter Sawyer Warren singled and stole second, then came home on a wild throw off Zack Ehlen’s bunt single. Mertes then plated Ehlen with a squeeze bunt.
Fike starting pitcher Garrett Phillips allowed three runs on five hits and two walks through six innings. He gave way to sidearmer Blake Roberts for the seventh.
A Tyler Miller single and a fielding error started that inning. After a fielder’s choice, Mertes gunned down Whitey Fortner trying to steal second. Miller didn’t break for home then, but he scored on a wild pitch after Roberts walked Zac Lewis. Scott Johnson then laced a single to left, scoring Lewis. But Johnson tried for second on the throw home, and when third baseman Andrew Olsen cut off the throw, Johnson was easy pickings to end the game.
Neither of Fike’s first two errors factored in the scoring, but in the third Ada still took a 1-0 lead when Fortner’s two-run single scored Cruz Villafranco’s courtesy runner. With the score tied in the fourth, Ada loaded the bases on a single, error and hit batter before Villafranco lashed a two-run single. Mertes helped Fike escape further damage by throwing out a runner at third.
Fike’s first run came in the top of the fourth. A hit by pitch, sacrifice bunt and wild pitch put Derek Case on third base, and Pecota plated him with a sacrifice fly.
Though fully aware his team reaped more benefits than Ada from the opposition’s errors, Moran isn’t worried about his team’s usually stout defense heading into the quarterfinals.
“I think they’re fine,” he said. “We didn’t talk about it much, and they know they’re better than that. Maybe it’s good we got them out of the way.”