SEDALIA, Mo. – The last time the Blue Springs Rod's Sports Athletics played Independence Post 21, they eked out a pair of one-run victories in a doubleheader despite being outhit in both contests.
This time around, the A's (39-10) made sure to bring their best bats. They scored 17 runs on 20 hits en route to a dominant 17-4 victory over Post 21 in the first game of the American Legion Zone 2 Tournament Thursday at Liberty Park Stadium in Sedalia.
A’s manager Mike Rooney said the offensive outburst was a much-needed confidence boost after his team sputtered to a pair of losses to the Sedalia Post 642 Travelers in the Zone 2 East Tournament finals last weekend, when they scored just seven runs combined.
“We had a bad approach at the plate, swinging at too many 2-0 and 3-1 counts,” Rooney said. “We talked to them about it, and they came out focused and showed more patience at the plate. It's good to see the offense wake up and change the way they had been playing.”
Center fielder David Stober led the effort, going 3-for-5, including a three-run blast he sent over the left-field fence on a hanging curveball in the bottom of the sixth, capping the 13-run blowout.
“I swung at the high pitch all day and didn't hit it until then,” Stober said. “Luckily, I got all of that one.”
Not only did Blue Springs score in all six innings, all 10 A's who played in the game collected hits.
In addition, Corbin Hare picked up the win on the mound, tossing a complete game, allowing four runs on 10 hits while striking out two.
“I threw all right,” Hare said. “My shoulder was feeling pretty good. I didn't have anything but the fastball and curve going. The changeup started to come on late.”
The A's damage start in the first when Stober scored after a single by Hare and a throwing error in the outfield. Ramon Rivera and Jared Lafal followed with a pair of run-scoring singles to make it 3-0.
“We really needed that big start,” Stober said. “In districts, we couldn't hit the ball. We just really got it going today.”
Post 21 scored on a bizarre play in the second. Justin Niccum smacked a single to second, while Mitchell Herrick held up at third, Tyler Cross tried to advance to third, but noticed Herrick was still there. He then ran back to second where Niccum was also running toward the bag. With both runners on second, catcher Luke Miller threw the ball there where Niccum was tagged out, but that allowed Herrick to score, making it 3-1.
“We should have tagged both runners out at second,” Rooney said. “The catcher should have faked a throw to third to send him back then thrown it to second, so we could have gotten both outs with no runs scored.”
“I wish I could take credit for that,” Post 21 manager Tim Madsen said. “That was just a case of a couple of guys bring really aggressive and trying to make something happen.”
Blue Springs recovered from the minor mishap, scoring two runs in the second on a Stober single and Rivera groundout, and one in the third when Nate Carlton scored on Brandon Bennefeld's seeing-eye base hit to left.
With the score 6-1 headed into the bottom of the fourth, Blue Springs blew the game wide open with a six-run inning. Lafal doubled in a run, Rivera scored on Carlton's suicide squeeze, Miller had an RBI double of his own, Bennefeld and Jeremy Lufft brought home runs with a pair of bloop singles and Bennefeld touched home plate after a balk, ballooning the A's lead to 12-1.
Independence did not go quietly, though. In the top of the fifth, Eli Whitmore led off with a triple and scored on Matt Hughes' sacrifice fly. Then relief pitcher Jason Lyons drilled a single up the middle to score Nick Adrales and Cody Gregory to slice the lead to 12-4.
Unfortunately for Post 21, the Blue Springs offense was too much, as the A's scored two in the fifth and three in the sixth to cap off the offensive display.
“It was really hard to get anything going with the way they were swinging bats today,” Madsen said of the A's. “They were getting on someone every inning and constantly putting the ball in play. Hard to win when a team is hitting like that.”
With the victory, the A's advance to play at 10 a.m. Friday against the Lee's Summit Outlaws, a team they were 3-1 against during the regular season.
“As long as we hit like we did today, we should be in good shape,” Hare said. “Stober is starting for us tomorrow and has thrown well against them this year. That should give us some confidence.”
BLUE SPRINGS POST 499 FIKE 2, LEE’S SUMMIT POST 189 PIRATES 1: Alex Smith and Victor Schofield combined to hold the Pirates to one run and struck out nine as Fike advanced to the winners’ bracket with a first-round win.
Fike broke a 1-1 deadlock with a single run in the top of the fourth inning. Smith struck out eight and allowed a third-inning run on seven hits. Schofield got the save with two scoreless innings as the Pirates stranded nine runners. Sal Nuñez suffered the loss despite throwing a nine-inning complete game.
Zack Ehlen went 2 for 4 with two doubles and Fike’s lone RBI. Nate Pecota and Braden Younkin each added two hits, and Garrett Phillips had a hit and a run as Post 499 prevailed despite getting ouhit 9-8.