With Wednesday’s 7-0 win over Blue Springs Post 499 Fike, the Blue Springs Rod’s Sports A’s captured the Zone 2 East title and earned a first-round bye for this weekend’s zone tournament.
But A’s manager probably is more pleased with how his team earned its victory in a makeup at Hidden Valley Park from a rainout last month. Pitcher Devon Sesler hurled a three-hit shutout, and a lineup that had been bumbling rapped 10 hits to capitalize on some abnormally shaky Fike defense.
“It’s nice to win the league, nice to get the bye and nice to be getting hits like we’re capable of,” Rooney said after his team finished the regular season at 37-8 overall and 16-2 in Zone 2 play. “The last four or five games we haven’t swung the bats well, so it feels good to put a 10-spot on the scoreboard.
Rooney said his squad looked sluggish at the plate during a pair of wins Monday as players adjusted back to aluminum bats after last week’s Wood Bat Invitational.
“They looked a lot better at the plate, and they had a good approach,” he said Wednesday after the A’s scored in five of six innings. “They showed more patience than they have been.”
After Sesler got a ground out and infield pop-up to strand a pair of runners, the A’s grabbed an early lead when Ramon Rivera followed Corbin Hare’s two-out walk with an RBI single that scored Jeremy Lufft.
Fike (30-7, 15-3) escaped damage in the second when second baseman Nic Mertes caught a line drive and threw to second to double off a runner, but the A’s got to Fike starter Andrew Olsen for four hits and three runs in the third.
A throwing error on Hare’s infield hit scored Dillon Jackson, Jared Lafal singled in Lufft and Hare scored when Lafal induced a rundown between first and second before being tagged out.
That was plenty of support for Sesler, who yielded two walks and a hit batter among seven baserunners. He struck out seven, including four of the last seven batters he faced, and threw 108 pitches.
“I felt great on the mound today, maybe the hardest I’ve thrown all year,” Sesler said. “It was the first game my curveball’s worked all year. It’s come and gone in some games, but it was on from the first pitch today. It was great having it back.
“With our team, the way they hit, it really helps to have a lead, which is what happens most of the time. With a lead, it’s just a huge confidence boost.”
“Outstanding,” Rooney said of Sesler’s game. “He did a great job working ahead most of the time.”
Nate Carlton and Brandon Bennefeld singled in unearned runs in the fourth and fifth innings, respectively, and David Stober’s sacrifice fly plated Carlton with another unearned run off Fike reliever Victor Schofield in the sixth.
In addition to their hitting prowess, the A’s stole six bases, two of them by Carlton, who also joined Lufft and Bennefeld with two hits apiece.
“With a team as good as they are,” Rooney said of Fike, “it can be kind of deflating to see us keep adding on.”
Fike, which got two hits from Cale Benson, was coming off a runner-up finish as host team for the Wood Bat Invitational, as well as doubleheader sweeps each of the last two days. But manager Jim Moran’s team hasn’t fared too well this season against the A’s.
“If you don’t score, you can’t win,” Moran said. “Andrew did not pitch poorly, but we didn’t play good defense behind him.
“They’re the champs; they beat us three times; they deserve it. I’m sure we’ll see them again.”