If Blue Springs Post 499 Fike pitcher Hunter Blachford had his druthers, he would finish every start.
But if he can’t finish one, he would prefer that Jackson Rehkow close for him – as was the case in Fike’s 4-3 American Legion Wood Bat Invitational win over the Ottawa (Kan.) Post 60 Arrows Friday at Hidden Valley Park.
Fike manager Doug Lohman opted to pull the recent Blue Springs South graduate and soon-to-be University of Alabama freshman after Owen Lamar’s leadoff left-field double in the bottom of the seventh because Blachford nearing his pitch limit. Blachford threw 107 pitches, including 64 strikes.
Blachford, who spread eight hits, struck out four, walked four and yielded three runs in getting the victory, said that Rehkow’s power pitching would complement the finesse pitching Blachford had displayed through six-plus innings.
“The difference in speed is really tough for hitters to deal with between me and him,” Blachford said. “And so, I was confident when he came in that it was going to be very, very difficult for them to put that run that they needed on the board.”
Rehkow’s first order of business in protecting Fike’s one-run lead was to field a ground ball and get Lamar in a rundown between second and third. Lohman called the out a “huge play.”
“We executed it well,” he said.
After yielding a one-out single, Rehkow served up a groundout. Then, with runners on second and third, he struck out Grant Maxwell for the save, punctuating the finish by getting Maxwell to swing vainly at a high heater.
“Kid made a great pitch, getting him to chase one up and he didn’t catch up to it. … That’s the way baseball goes,” Arrows manager Brian Long said.
Rehkow also helped at the plate before earning the save. Fike posted two runs in the fourth inning on Quinton Weld’s RBI double and Rehkow’s screaming RBI single up the middle.
After the Arrows cut it to 2-1 in the fifth, a sacrifice fly and an RBI single gave Fike two more runs in the top of the sixth.
Ottawa answered with two runs in the bottom of the sixth.
For Fike, the win was a comeback from that afternoon’s 8-0 loss in six innings at Hidden Valley to the Warrensburg Post 131 Isotopes. Warrensburg put it away by scoring a run in the first, four in the second, another run in the third and two runs in the sixth. Isotopes pitcher Laine Hurley capitalized on that run support by throwing a five-hitter, yielding a single apiece to Rehkow, Weld, Ross Greco, Jacob Jackson and Ryan Cates.
“We came out really flat in our first game,” Blachford said. “And we didn’t do much of anything. Having a game like that really made us have to come out in the second game and play (competitively) – and that’s how the game was. It was a close game that we really needed to energize the team going into the rest of this weekend.”
Fike, the host team, finished pool play with a 2-2 mark. It will meet the Omaha (Neb.) Post 1 Vikings in a crossover consolation game at 3 p.m. Saturday at Hidden Valley Park’s Field 1.