SEDALIA, Mo. – The Blue Springs Rod’s Sports A’s made the big improbable rally. But the Lee’s Summit Outlaws had the last-gasp rally, and then the big extra push in the 10th inning to earn another trip back to Liberty Park Stadium for the American Legion Missouri State Tournament.
The A’s, who won three straight in the losers’ bracket and then beat the Outlaws 2-1 on Sunday to force Monday’s winner-take-all final in the Zone 2 Tournament (see related story), scored six runs in the bottom of the seventh to claim an 8-6 lead and get within six outs of a repeat state berth.
The Outlaws countered with a run each in the eighth and ninth innings, both coming on two-out wild pitches, and plated three runs in the 10th for an 11-8 win.
The Outlaws (35-18) face Jefferson City Post 5 at 4 p.m. Thursday in the state tournament.
After his team forged a 3-0 lead right away and had a 6-2 cushion at the seventh inning stretch, only to see the A’s (43-12) stage a major comeback, Outlaws manager Mike Gailey said his team didn’t doubt it could respond.
“Let’s stop them right now and come back; we’ve done it before,” he said of his team’s mentality at that time. “Anything can happen. You can only take care of what happens on the field.”
“Just keep playing,” added third baseman Seth Soto, who scored three times after drawing walks and had four stolen bases. “We’ve had a few comebacks this year.”
Soto also reached base in the eighth when he was hit by pitch after Dalton Woods’ two-out single. They pulled off a double steal, and Woods then scored on a wild pitch from David Stober.
Stober, the third of four A’s relief pitchers on the day, got a groundout to strand two, but in the ninth he nipped Brian Conrow with a one-out pitch. Chase Overton legged out an infield hit to the right side, and Alec Shuler followed with a single to left to load the bases. Brett Conrow looked at strike three, but another wild pitch allowed Brian Conrow to slide in with the tying run.
In the 10th, Soto drew a leadoff walk and Quentin Bradford sacrificed him to second. The A’s issued an intentional walk to Herb Byers, hoping to get a double-play grounder. With Byers running, Miles Kilgore hit a grounder to short, and a charging Dillon Jackson couldn’t get a throw home in time to nail Soto, giving the Outlaws the lead for good.
Soto said he had it in mind to take off on any pitch in the dirt.
“We needed that extra base, needed the runner on third to press (the defense),” he said.
After a passed ball, Brian Conrow’s sacrifice fly and singles by Overton and Shuler made it a three-run game. Kilgore, who came on to pitch the ninth, made a neat snag to start a 1-6-3 game-ending double-play.
“It was a team win,” Gailey said. “We didn’t quit, and everybody played a part.”
The Outlaws struck right away, as Byers had an RBI single and Brian Conrow a two-run single with two outs in the first against A’s starter Alex VanZandt. In the fifth, Soto scored on the front end of a double steal and Bradford came home when Kameron Gray’s single to center was misplayed.
Soto scored again the seventh after a leadoff walk and stolen base. He tagged for third base on Bradford’s fly out to right and sprinted home for a 6-2 lead when the relay throw skipped past third.
The A’s scored in the first when Stober’s sac fly plated Jeremy Lufft, who had tripled. In the sixth Corbin Hare doubled with one out and came around on Ramon Rivera’s single and Jared Lafal’s fielder’s choice.
In the seventh, Rod’s Sports had 10 straight batters reach with one out. A walk to Brandon Bennefeld and Lufft’s double ended the day for Outlaws starter P.J. Seufert. Woods relieved but couldn’t get any of six batters out. Runs came home on a wild pitch and hits from Stober and Lafal, and an error on Lafal’s single also allowed the tying run to score.
After Woods issued his second walk of the inning, Luke Miller got down a squeeze bunt and Kirk Finley slid in ahead of the attempted force-out at home. After a second squeeze attempt failed and cost the A’s a runner at third, reliever Jackson Markham issued walks to Jackson and Bennefeld to force in another run before Lufft lined out.
“We fought hard to get back in it, but we made some critical mental errors,” A’s manager Mike Rooney said. “It’s just hard to lose the way we lost it. In our big inning we should’ve scored more, but we totally missed a couple squeezes.”
Seufert, who recorded a seven-inning complete game against the A’s on Friday, again pitched effectively without getting a strikeout. Kilgore got the win in relief, Overton’s four hits paced a 13-hit attack and the Outlaws also drew 10 walks.
Lufft had three hits and Stober and Lafal two apiece from the A’s total of 12.
“You’ve got to give them credit,” Rooney said of the Outlaws. “They could’ve folded after our big inning. I’m happy for Mike. I think it’s the first time he’s had a team go to state, and I hope they go and win it.”