Following a doubleheader sweep of Independence Post 21 Tuesday night at Hidden Valley Park, the stage is set for a highly anticipated Zone 2 East title game between Blue Springs Post 499 Fike and Rod's Sports A's.
Fike won its ninth and 10th games in the past seven days Tuesday night, blanking Post 21 6-0 in the first game, behind a complete-game effort by Garrett Phillips, and then winning a 2-hour, 52-minute 9-1 marathon in the second game as Kaleb Salmon pitched 5 2/3 innings and Malyk Davis and Victor Schofield came on in relief to give Post 499 a healthy amount of pitching for tonight's big matchup.
“The A's are a great team, and Wednesday's game is for the No. 1 seed in postseason and all the marbles,” said Fike manager Jim Moran, whose team is 10-1 over the past week, with a second-place finish in the 30-team Wood Bat Invitational this past weekend.
“Our kids are sky high. They may take a while to get things going or find an unusual way to win a game, as we all saw in the Wood Bat (coming back from a 7-4 deficit to claim an 8-7, nine-inning win in the semifinal game Sunday) but they are playing winning baseball. They're playing their best ball of the summer and now is the time you want to be playing their best ball.”
Phillips, who drove home the winning run in Sunday's semifinal win, said he felt like the team needed a complete-game victory in the opener Tuesday night and he was happy to oblige.
“We need all the pitching we can get against the A's,” said Phillips, who allowed just three hits in the opener. “We're such a confident team right now. We feel like we can compete with anyone. We won two games Monday (against the Pirates) and two tonight. We're all looking forward to tomorrow's night against the A's.”
Salmon ran out of gas in the sixth inning of the second game, but gave it all he had.
“I wanted that complete game, but at least I pitched into the sixth inning,” said Salmon, who did not allow a run. “We're set pitching wise tomorrow night. Malyk and Victor came in and did a nice job tonight and my defense was amazing.”
Center fielder Braden Younkin, who was 3-for-3 with an RBI and two runs scored, threw out two Post 21 base runners in the second game.
“Defense is my favorite part of the game,” Younkin said. “If we have an opportunity to thwart a big inning by throwing out a runner, I'm proud to be a part of it. Tonight, we went out and took care of business. We got great pitching, timely hitting and played good defense.”
Although the final score might not indicate the need for a big hit in the second game, Blake Roberts delivered a two-run double in the top of the third inning off starter Nico Pike to give Fike a 3-0 lead.
“We knew if we got Kaleb a couple of runs early he would win the second game,” said Roberts, who finished with two doubles and two RBIs. “We're so confident right now. Everything is going our way. We're having a lot of fun and winning a lot of games.”
Fike, which is 30-6 overall, and the A’s (36-8) are both 15-2 in Zone 2 East play entering tonight’s winner-take-all game at Hidden Valley. The winner also gets the No. 1 seed in the Zone 2 East Tournament, which starts Thursday at Hidden Valley.
Justin Niccum drove home the lone Post 21 run with a bases loaded walk in the bottom of the seventh inning of Game 2. Mitchell Herrick had two singles for Post 21.
Nic Mertes finished the night with four hits for Fike, two in each game.