SEDALIA, Mo. – With a chance to advance to play Jefferson City Post 5 in the American Legion Missouri State Tournament finals, the Lee's Summit Outlaws appeared to run out of gas.
Well, until the seventh inning at least.
The Outlaws put up a four-run seventh after being blanked in the first six innings against Festus Post 253. Catcher Justin McEnroe crushed a two-run triple to left past the diving left fielder to put his team ahead for good.
The Outlaws followed up a thrilling 12-inning, 3-2 win over the Blue Springs Rod's Sports A's earlier in the day with a gutsy 4-3 win over Festus Friday at Liberty Park Stadium.
Lee's Summit advances to play Post 5 at 1 p.m. today. With the tournament being double elimination, and Jefferson City having not yet lost, the Outlaws will have to win two games to win the state title and advance to the South Central Regional next week in New Orleans.
“I tell you what, these guys have not panicked all year long,” Outlaws manager Mark Bradford said. “They haven’t gotten their butts whooped many times. Even then, they weren’t panicking. We played two clean games and we can beat anyone when we do that.”
Not to mention the team had to get through two high-stress games.
“We’re not too tired,” Outlaws first baseman Grant Hill said. “We are on Cloud 9 right now.”
In the bottom of the ninth, Festus cut the lead to 4-3 after a sacrifice fly from Jaden Courtois. That was the only out reliever Ryan Sudohawski got in the ninth after he took over for Campbell, who pitched 8 ⅓ innings. After Sudohawski hit his second batter of the inning that loaded the bases for Festus’ No. 3 hitter Collin Mann, Hayden Bradford came in to try and end it, but ran into a 3-2 count. After Mann fouled off a few pitches, he lined one up the middle. However, second baseman Jason Gonzalez was there to make a sliding catch on his knees to send his team to the championship.
Things didn't go well for Lee's Summit early on.
Festus led off with a pair of RBI singles from Cameron Beck off Outlaws starting pitcher Matt Campbell in the first.
The Outlaws had a chance to score in the fourth with the bases loaded, following three singles from Justin McEnroe, Gunnar Gronberg and Jeremy Root. But two strikeouts left the runners stranded.
After attacking early in the count for much of the first six innings, the Outlaws switched to a more patient approach in the seventh. That resulted in them chasing Festus starter Donovan McDonough, who surrendered a walk and a base hit.
Brennan Pryor was summoned to get the final out but ended up getting rocked by a resurgent Lee's Summit offense. Justin Root lined an RBI single to right to bring his team within one. McEnroe then followed up with the biggest hit of the game – a two-run triple that elicited a double fist pump from the catcher after sliding into third.
“It was a big game in a big situation. I never had a hit like that before,” McEnroe said.
Gonzalez added some insurance with a dribbler down the third base line that Matt Rosen couldn't field cleanly, allowing McEnroe to score, giving Lee's Summit a 4-2 lead.
Campbell, who recovered nicely after giving up two runs in the first, shut down Festus the rest of the way. After tossing a 1-2-3 seventh, Campbell, who gave up three runs on four hits and fanned five, didn't hide his emotions as he pumped his fist and let out a shout. He also tossed a scoreless eighth and got one out in the ninth after being pulled following a pair of walks.
“It was just adrenaline throughout the game,” Campbell said of how he got through tossing 120-plus pitches. “Once we got the lead, the adrenaline kicked in. I didn’t feel a thing after that. When I got into the dugout (the fatigue) hit me like a rock.”
Now, Bradford has the challenge of navigating through possibly two games in the championship round after using most of his pitchers in three games.
“We have two pitchers who can go a full game and a couple of guys that can come in relief,” Mark Bradford said. “It could be worse. It’s not too bad, though.”
LEE'S SUMMIT OUTLAWS 3, BLUE SPRINGS ROD'S SPORTS A'S 2: Blue Springs Rod's Sports A's starting pitcher Ryan McMahan was just one out away from tossing the first nine-inning complete game of his career.
He had only given up one run on seven hits going into the bottom of the ninth inning of an elimination game against rival Lee's Summit.
The A's had a 2-1 lead with just one out left to get. However, McMahan ran out of gas at the end. After getting the first two outs, he walked two and hit one batter to load the bases for Gonzalez.
“I felt OK, but I ran out of gas a little bit,” said McMahan who pitched 8 1/3 innings and was charged with two runs on seven hits and struck out four. “It’s not so much my velocity that went down, it’s my control. I was trying to squeeze all I could out of the last inning. It just didn’t work out.”
A's manager Mike Rooney elected to bring in relief pitcher Aaron Bennefeld, who walked Gonzalez on four pitches to force in the run.
“When you walk a leadoff hitter, they score 85 percent of the time,” Rooney said. “That’s baseball.”
From there, the Outlaws made Blue Springs pay. First baseman Hill hit a game-winning RBI single to bring in Gonzalez in the 12th inning, earning a 3-2 walk-off win.
After the Outlaws tied the game in the ninth, both teams failed to score in the next two innings, including the A's leaving the bases loaded in the 10th when Caleb Marquez drilled a line drive right at Outlaws shortstop Oscar Medrano.
The A's had a similar opportunity in the 12th when Outlaws reliever Alex Fall walked the bases loaded, but Marquez flied out to end the threat.
Gonzalez walked to lead off the bottom of the 12th against reliever C.J. July. Jeremy root moved him to second on a sacrifice bunt and Gonzalez made it to third on a wild pitch. With the infield playing in, Hill hit the ball hard up the middle.
A's second baseman Anthony Gunn made a diving stop and tried to throw home while on his back, but the throw went wide and Gonzalez crossed home to end it.
“I was like, “Oh no! He got it, he’s going to take this from me,” Hill said of Gunn’s diving stop. “I went up to the plate and thought, ‘Man, I got a shot at this.’ Then once I saw Jason scored I was like, ‘Oh (heck) yeah.’”
Gunn drilled an RBI single to left-center in the fourth and Jake Lufft snuck an RBI single through the right side for the A's other run in the eighth. Hill doubled in a run for Lee's Summit in the sixth and helped the Outlaws earn their first win over the A's in four tries this season.
The Outlaws’ win was also aided by a diving catch from Jeremy Root in the seventh, robbing Lufft of a base hit with the bases loaded and two outs.
It also helped Lee's Summit's cause that Gronberg stymied Blue Springs once again. He only gave up two runs on three hits, walked five and struck out seven, most on his filthy 12-6 curveball.
For McMahan, his baseball career came full circle as he ended his tenure ended against the same Outlaws players he's been competing against since he was a child.
“The Outlaws had a competitive team since I was 8,” said McMahan, who will pitch for Lindenwood University next year. “It’s funny how I am going out, playing those guys that I’ve been playing since I was 8. They have always been our best competition.”
Rooney said he was proud of the season that his team had and was pleased with their effort in an elimination game.
“Everyone played their hearts out for 12 innings,” he said. “We had it won in the ninth and couldn’t get the job done. My team gave it 120 percent and that’s all I can ask for.”