Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good.
That’s what Blue Springs Rod’s Sports A’s manager Mike Rooney said anyway after his team’s game against the Lee’s Summit Outlaws.
His team came back from an 8-2 deficit and got the winning run from a couple of unlikely sources. His A’s pulled out a 9-8 walk-off win in 10 innings during the winner’s bracket final of the American Legion Missouri Zone 2 tournament, punching their ticket to the state tournament because the top two teams earn automatic berths to state.
The two unlikely sources who produced the winning run were first baseman Max Gibler and pinch runner Andrew Garry.
Gibler, who exclusively pitched for Blue Springs High School, is hitting for the first time in two years during this Legion season. He led off the 10th with a single, which was his second hit of the night.
“(The season) started out slow because I hadn’t hit in a while.” said Gibler, who is slated to make his first start as a pitcher for the A’s tomorrow after nursing a sore left shoulder all summer. “It felt good to get the win, that’s for sure. This is exciting because this is my first year with the A’s.”
Garry, who helped the team win with a diving catch in a 14-6 win against Blue Springs Post 499 Fike earlier in the tournament, pinch ran for Gibler and scored on a wild pitch from Ryan Suhokawski with two outs to help send the team to Saturday’s 7 p.m. championship.
“It was good because I am new here,” said Garry who was recently promoted to the A’s senior (AAA) team from the junior (AA) squad. “That was so exhilarating. That was huge because we’re moving on to state.”
The A’s earned the win after falling behind 8-2 going into the bottom of the seventh.
“They worked their fannies off tonight,” Rooney said. “We kept chipping and we stuck with it. Their hard work rewarded them. It was a lucky win, but I’d rather be lucky than not.”
Blue Springs got a run in the seventh after Anthony Gunn snuck an RBI single through the right side. In the eighth, Jake Lufft crushed a two-run single to left and an infield error for the Outlaws led to another run.
The Outlaws had runners and second and first with one out in the ninth and Jeremy Root nearly added to the Outlaws lead. However, C.J. July made a dazzling play to keep his team within two. He made a running catch on a line drive up the middle and made a nice backhanded flip to Gunn at second to get the double play.
Not to be outdone, Bradford made a web gem of his own in the ninth. Simsheuser drilled a ball to center field but Bradford made a spectacular over-the-shoulder catch to rob the A's catcher of extra bases. That didn't stop Blue Springs from tying the game, however.
With runners on the corners, July chopped the ball to second base and Gonzalez didn't have enough time to make a play as Ray Paniaqua scored from third. Lufft tied the game with another bouncer to third, Justin Root's throw from third was high, pulling Hill off the bag at first base as Liggett scored to tie it.
Gunn was walked intentionally to loaded the bases and reliever Suhowaski induced a force out on a ground ball and got Rooney to strike out to prevent a walk-off and send it to extras, setting up the A’s winning run.
Lee’s Summit looked to run away with it early.
One mistake led to a three-run second inning for the Outlaws. Justin McEnroe and Jason Gonzalez led off with singles. Gunnar Gronberg followed with a sacrifice bunt attempt. Lufft fielded it, checked third and whirled around and threw the ball to first. It went over first baseman Gibler's head for the first run. Jeremy Root cashed in with runners and third in second with a two-run single off the glove of a leaping Gibler, making it 3-0.
The A's bounced back in a similar fashion in the bottom of the third. Simsheuser reached on a passed ball and a strikeout as the throw to first was wild by McEnroe. He later scored on July's RBI groundout. Lufft later drove in a run on a fly ball to center that Hayden Bradford lost in the wind, which allowed it to fall behind him as the A's climbed to within one.
After Lufft cruised through the second through sixth innings, he got roughed up in the seventh. Justin Root drilled a two-run single to left. A bobbled ball off a grounder from McEnroe allowed runners to reach second and first on a potential double play ball. Gronberg smashed a two-run double to left-center and Jeremy Root knocked in a run with an RBI single as the throw from right field couldn't be corralled by Simsheuser at home to try and cut down Gronberg.
But it wasn’t enough in the end for the Outlaws, who couldn’t hold on to the win for Gronberg, who had a dazzling performance. He gave up two runs (one earned) on four hits and struck out nine in six innings.
“Gunnar pitched great and we hit the ball pretty well,” Outlaws manager Mark Bradford said. “Jake is a good pitcher and we got to him. We just couldn’t make plays late."
July and Lufft paced the A’s with three this each and they combined for five RBIs.