As Blue Springs Rod’s Sports A’s manager Mike Rooney manicured the field at Blue Springs High School Friday afternoon, getting it ready for another game in the 26th annual American Legion Wood Bat Invitational, he had some time to collect his thoughts and replay every moment in a heartbreaking 3-2 loss to Jefferson City Post 5.
“If it wasn’t for bad luck, we wouldn’t have any luck at all,” said Rooney, whose team dropped its last two games by one run, following convincing 11-0 and 8-3 wins, to be eliminated from a championship bracket berth in the 30-team tournament. “I wondered how the kids would come out and play today after that tough (4-3) loss last night, and we go up 2-0 in the first inning and everything is looking good, and then they score three runs and we can’t get another big hit.
“Like I told you yesterday, baseball is a funny game.”
But Rooney wasn’t laughing.
His team’s final game in the tournament will be a crossover contest Saturday, then Rooney and the 33-8 A’s will start thinking about making a strong finish in their American Legion season as they head into postseason action.
The A’s took advantage of two Jefferson City errors in the top of the first inning to take a 2-0 lead.
Dillon Jackson reached first base on an error and Kirk Finley singled him to third. Jeremy Lufft then hit a sacrifice fly to deep center field and Corbin Hare was hit by a pitch. Finley scored on an errant pickoff attempt of Hare at first base.
Post 5 shook off the first inning by scoring three runs in the bottom of the second inning. With two outs, A.J. Elsworth came up with a two-run single to give starter Trevor Schneider a lead he never surrendered.
“Their kid did a great job,” Rooney said of Schneider. “He found out early we couldn’t hit a curveball, and we got a steady diet of curveballs after that. I bet he threw 80 percent curves after the second inning.”
Schneider agreed with that assessment.
“They had trouble with the curve and slider, and that’s what I went with,” said Schneider, who threw just 88 pitches in a complete-game effort. “When I needed a big pitch, I was able to come up with it.”
His two biggest pitches came up in the fifth when the A’s had runners on second and third with just one out. Schneider struck out Lufft and David Stober to end the threat.
“Trevor showed us a lot today,” Post 5 manager Dane Hughes said. “We got a great game from Trevor. I think he got stronger as the game went on. And we managed to get a big two-out hit. That’s how you win in this tournament.”
A’s starter Devon Sesler was the hard-luck loser, allowing just five his in a complete-game loss.
“We lost that tough game last night and came back and played well,” Sesler said. “The guys made some great defensive plays, but we just couldn’t get the big hit when we needed it.”
Hare and Sesler combined for a bang-bang first baseman-to-pitcher out in the first, and Finley made a long run to left center field to rob a Post 5 player of a two-run extra-base hit.