Once Alex Smith got through the first inning unscathed, he found some smooth sailing Friday at Hidden Valley Park.
The Blue Springs Post 499 Fike right-hander went eight innings, working with a lead after the second inning, and yielded just an one unearned run as Fike won its American Legion Zone 2 East Tournament opener, 7-4 over the Sedalia Post 642 Travelers.
Fike (30-7) faces Blue Springs Rod’s Sports Athletics (37-8) at 1 p.m. Saturday, while the Travelers (21-20) wait to face the loser of that game at 4 p.m.
The Travelers made a brief rally in the ninth, as a walk, error and Steven Bradbury’s RBI double off reliever Nate Pecota made it 7-2 with one out. Victor Schofield replaced Pecota, got a fly out, yielded a two-run single to Chance McMullin and induced a pop foul for the final out.
“Congratulations goes to Alex Smith,” Fike manager Jim Moran said. “Eight innings in a nine-inning game is big to set up the rest of the tournament.
“After the first inning – he threw a lot of pitches the first inning – he came back and threw well as far as pitch count is concerned. (He was) economical, and they hit some balls right us.”
A couple 6-4-3 double plays, the latter one after the Travelers loaded the bases with one out in the seventh, also helped matters. In between those, Smith retired 11 in a row until Sedalia got its only run in the sixth, when Ian Dotson and Mason Kelchner singled with two outs and an outfield throw skipped away, allowing Dotson to score.
Sedalia also threatened to score in the first with a throwing error and single, but Smith induced a pair of infield pop-ups to escape.
“The first inning’s always pretty tough,” said Smith, who struck out three, scattered eight hits and a walk and threw 116 pitches. “You’re trying to get the feel for your arm slot, what the batter’s doing, the mound and mainly, what the umpire’s calling.
“It always helps you to calm down when you get a lead.”
Fike gave him that after loading the bases to start the second on two hits and an errant fielder’s choice throw off a bunt. Braden Younkin lined a two-run double, and Zack Ehlen’s infield single with one out made it 3-0.
In the fifth Nic Mertes scored thanks to throwing errors after his infield hit and a wild pitch. Doubles from Cale Benson and Pecota then made it 5-0.
Garrett Phillips bounced through an RBI single in the seventh, and two batters later Andrew Olsen laid down a pretty squeeze bunt to plate Benson.
Ehlen’s three hits from the leadoff spot, including a double, paced Fike’s 10-hit attack. Phillips and Pecota added two hits apiece.
Moran said his offense came through “at the right time.”
“They made a couple key errors,” he said, “but we took advantage of them.”