The same Sedalia Post 642 buzzsaw that ripped through one Blue Springs American Legion team Saturday kept right on humming against the other one Sunday in the Zone 2 East Tournament finals at Hidden Valley Park.
The Post 642 Travelers rang up an 18-1 mercy-rule win Saturday to eliminate Blue Springs Post 499 Fike in seven innings, then rapped a combined 25 hits to beat Rod’s Sports Athletics twice Sunday – 6-4 to force a winner-take-all championship and 10-3 in the second game to earn a first-round bye in this week’s Zone 2 Tournament on their home turf.
The A’s (38-10) advanced to Sunday with a 3-2 win over Fike (31-9) in Saturday’s first game, but six errors and a key blunder on the basepaths, combined with 12 hits by Sedalia (24-20), proved too much to overcome in the first game Sunday. In the second game, the Travelers built a 5-0 lead in four innings against A’s starter Devon Sesler, who had pitched a three-hit shutout in the A’s regular-season finale Wednesday.
“We had a bad day, and we picked a bad day to be off,” A’s manager Mike Rooney said. “Sedalia played two terrific ballgames and swung the bats extremely well.
“When you make six errors, yeah, it can be deflating. But good teams find a way to respond and change it, and we didn’t respond.”
Sedalia's Chance McMullin laced a triple to right-center to start Saturday, and after a booted ground ball, single and sacrifice fly, the Travelers had a 2-0 lead against A’s starter Jonathan Fink.
The A’s quickly responded as David Stober and Corbin Hare drew two-out walks and Ramon Rivera and Jared Lafal followed with RBI singles. But the Travelers took the lead for good in the fourth. Fink appeared to escaped a bases-loaded, no-out jam, inducing a pair of shallow fly balls and a weak groundout to second, but the home plate umpire ruled catcher’s interference on the grounder, allowing a run to score.
The Travelers added three runs in the seventh for a 6-2 lead. The A’s had a rally going in the bottom half as Brandon Bennefeld drew a leadoff walk and Luke Miller followed with a single.
Nate Carlton then hit a fly ball to shallow center. The Travelers’ Matt Miles tried to make a diving catch, but the base umpire immediately ruled a trapped ball. The A’s third base coach, thinking the ball had been caught – Rooney later said his coach’s view was shielded – urged Bennefeld back toward second, where Miller already stood.
Bennefeld became an easy tag-out. The A’s did get two runs after Dillon Jackson beat out a possible inning-ending double play, as Jeremy Lufft’s single to center got misplayed, but certainly missed what could have been after Sedalia starting pitcher Austin Bullard allowed just one baserunner in the final two innings.
Rooney called the basepath adventure “something that went right along with how our day went.”
Fink allowed four runs (two earned) in six-plus innings before Hare finished in relief.
The Travelers also got to Sesler right away in the second game, as Cortlen Austin’s bloop single with two outs in the first plated a run. Two innings later Ian Dotson crushed a two-run homer to left.
The Travelers added two more runs in the fourth and another in the sixth for a 6-0 lead, then put the game on ice with a four-run seventh to make it 10-1.
Hare, Jackson and Bennefeld singled in runs in the sixth and seventh innings, but it was far too little to match the Travelers. Austin knocked five hits in Sunday’s two games, and McMullin, Miles and A.J. Paul added four apiece.
Sesler (5 innings) and reliever Lafal (2 innings) each yielded five runs – four of the 10 total coming unearned.
Travelers manager Jay Samborski said his team experienced a carryover effect Sunday from Saturday’s romp.
“We’ve been up and down all season long and we hadn’t found our stride,” he said. “The last two days we have. Our bats were coming around, and we got hits we haven’t been getting before – in clutch situations, and just having hits fall.
“I told our kids, that’s just how it is in baseball.”
Rooney said he didn’t have a good feeling about the second game before it even started.
“You could see the writing on the wall between games,” he said. “We were just sitting around, and they were moving around, having fun.”
The A’s had a better feeling Saturday, when Stober pitched a four-hitter in the 3-2 win over Fike. He had no strikeouts but walked just one and threw just 95 pitches.
Fike got single runs in the third and fourth innings, including an RBI double by Nate Pecota, but the A’s countered with three runs in the sixth. Hare led off with a double and Lafal, Kirk Finley (sacrifice fly) and Carlton batted in runs. Brandon Bennefeld added a single and stolen base to the rally.
In Saturday’s second game, Sedalia scored seven runs each in the third and fourth innings and added four in the sixth. Miles had a double, three singles and four RBIs to pace the Travelers’ 17-hit attack, and he also pitched five innings to get the win. Garrett Phillips suffered the loss for Fike.