The Blue Springs Rod’s Sports A’s slugged their way to clinching the No. 1 seed in the Zone 2 Tournament in a Wednesday night doubleheader against rival Blue Springs Post 499 Fike.
The A’s pounded out 25 hits, led by six from CJ July, in wins of 12-2 in five innings and 12-5 in Game 2 at Jim Moran Field.
A’s catcher Spencer Patrick hit a walk-off, bases-loaded single to deep left center field to score Jared Larson and trigger the mercy-rule. Patrick, who also plays for a travel team in Kansas, was 2-for-3 with two RBIs and a run scored.
“I felt great, I felt like I was due for one,” Patrick said. “I hit the ball on the ground quite a bit, so it felt good to get one elevated.”
The offensive outburst from the A’s made it an easy night for starting pitcher Jake Lufft, who went all five innings and allowed just two runs on four hits and struck out 10 as he blew away Fike hitters with his fastball. And he did it despite a minor groin injury and playing 18 games in the last 13 days, including the Ban Johnson League All-Star Game Monday.
“I don’t care if I get hurt, I will still play,” Lufft said. “I felt like I was able to throw my fastball most of the time and work in my curveball. I am not tired at all – the perks of being young.”
Rod’s Sports put it away in the first two innings, taking a 9-0 edge into the third. They scored seven in the first and sent 11 batters to the plate, six of whom had hits. The big inning was highlighted by Ray Paniagua’s two-run single that appeared to be hit right at Fike second baseman Koby Powell but took a wicked hop over his head and into the outfield.
In the second, the A’s added two more on Patrick’s sacrifice fly and Jackson Caley’s RBI single. One inning later, Dustin Brewer crossed home on a double steal, and Anthony Gunn, who was hitting well above .500 coming into the game, hit a run-scoring double to deep right field to make it 11-0.
Fike scored two in the top of the fifth on a two-run home run by Ross Greco that appeared to be a few feet foul from the left field foul pole but was ruled fair by the home-plate umpire.
“We swung the bats well and ran the bases well,” A’s manager Mike Rooney said. “Jake threw well and got gypped on that home run call. It was at least 10 feet foul.”
July was 2-for-2 with a run and an RBI and Zane Barr had a hit, an RBI and three runs scored. Greco led Fike with two hits.
“Let’s face it, the better team won that game,” Fike manager Doug Lohman said. “One play here or there didn’t factor into the game. Lufft threw the ball well.”
Game 2 was more of the same for the A’s except it took a little while longer for the offense to make it a blowout. They scored three runs in each of the third and fourth innings, five in the sixth and one in the seventh.
“We kind of let our intensity down for a while, and then we picked it back up,” Rooney said. “It’s something I am trying to get them to work on all year long. We just don’t have that killer instinct sometimes.”
Spotted with a six-run lead, Patrick, who pitched for the first time with the A’s, got the win. He gave up four runs (three earned) on two hits and struck out two in two innings of relief. Barr tossed three innings for the A’s to start the game and gave up two hits and struck out three.
Caley had a two-run double to deep left-center in a three-run third inning; and an infield error from Fike jump-started a three-run fourth for the A’s.
Fike battled back with three runs in the fourth and one in the fifth, highlighted by Crichton Hill’s two-run single to right. But the A’s erupted for five in the sixth as Paniagua poked a two-run single to right.
July finished his big day by going 4-for-5 with three RBIs and a run. Caley finished 2-for-5 with two RBIS and a run, and Gunn was 3-for-5 with three runs. Hill, Greco and Kyle Gaines each had two hits to pace Fike.
“I had sort of a different approach today,” July said. “I was trying to hit everything to the right side. At this last Wood Bat tournament I was hitting a lot the other way and I wanted to pull some more.
“We have a lot of confidence going into (the Zone 2 Tournament). Everyone is hitting well.”