Mike Gailey said that with a veteran Lee’s Summit Outlaws team returning for 2014, earning a trip to Sedalia for the American Legion State Tournament was the goal from day one.

“After losing last year (in the Zone 2 Tournament), and we had a nice season last year, the whole goal was to get to this spot,” the Outlaws manager said. “It became an important thing.”

The Outlaws (34-18) accomplished that goal by outlasting the Blue Springs Rod’s Sports A’s 11-8 in 10 innings Monday in the Zone 2 championship also at Sedalia’s Liberty Park Stadium. They had run-ruled the A’s three days earlier but lost a 2-1 decision Sunday to force Monday’s winner-take-all affair, in which they blew a 6-2 lead but rallied from an 8-6 deficit to force a 10th inning.

Lee’s Summit plays Jefferson City Post 5 at 4 p.m. today to open the state tournament at Liberty Park Satdium. The second game has Festus Post 253 vs. the Joplin Miners. The double-elimination tournament runs through Saturday.

“The last game, had the lead and lost it, thinking to myself, ‘It might be over with,’ but they didn’t quit,” Gailey said of Monday's game. “It was just pretty exciting to be around group of young men that get excited and get focused about getting the job done. We got a break here and there and took advantage of it Wasn’t so much coaching staff as players doing it for each other. Neat to watch that happen.”

When the Outlaws went 41-10 last year, team defense and a selective hitting approach proved to be two team strengths, Gailey said. Even with virtually the same group this year, the Outlaws struggled in those areas at first.

“It started off that we weren’t a good defensive team and our selective hitting was so-so,” Gailey said. “We’ve talked about it and worked on it, but of course they have to be the ones to perform, and being a veteran group they took it upon themselves.

“The defense has really shored itself up a lot. Pitching has always been strong, but defense helps make it strong, and we’ve really turned the corner with it.”

Dalton Woods (.443 batting average, 33 RBIs), Seth Soto (.405, 7 home runs, 52 RBIs) and Herb Byers (.359, 4 HRs, 54 RBIs) lead a lineup that features 10 players hitting at least .280. Top pitchers include Miles Kilgore (10-2, 1.70 ERA in 61 2/3 innings) and P.J. Seufert (8-3, 2.10 in 76 2/3 innings).

The Outlaws were belted by Jeff City Post 5 this year in their final game at the Wood Bat Invitational, but Gailey isn’t worried about that, citing the fact he threw a back-end pitcher and started some backups in that game.

“The next goal is to go out there and compete with every team there,” Gailey said. “If we go out and lose two in a row, we wouldn’t be ashamed. We’re still a good team and our record proves that.”