Blue Springs Post 499/Fike is in an interesting situation in this week’s American Legion Missouri Zone 2 Tournament at Hidden Valley Park.

Blue Springs Post 499/Fike is in an interesting situation in this week’s American Legion Missouri Zone 2 Tournament at Hidden Valley Park.
Fike, which enters with a 29-19 record, has played all the other teams in the tournament to decide this side of the state’s final four team.
That includes Fike’s opponent in Thursday’s 5p.m. opener, St. Joseph Post 11, which split a doubleheader with Fike earlier this season.
That one game assures manager Jim Moran that his team will not be looking past Post 11.
“We split with them here at Hidden Valley,” Moran said. “They did pretty well at the (American Legion Wood Bat Invitational). You never know what to expect.
“We’re going to focus on what Fike is capable of doing. But when we talk about St. Joe, all I have to say is they beat us in our place this year.”
And as proof Fike is not taking things lightly, Moran said his team will throw his ace, Van Horn High School graduate Blaine Hines, in the first game.
“Around this time, you go with your best,” Moran said. “And everything points to Blaine. He’s our best and one of the best in the Fifth District. The guy’s got a 1.8 ERA. He has more than a strikeout per inning. He does a great job.”
The Blue Springs Rod’s Sports Athletics (44-6) – the Fifth District regular-season and tournament champion – will face the Sedalia Post 642 Travelers at 8 p.m. Thursday in the first round.
A’s manager Mike Rooney said his team knows what it has to do to get through this tournament.
“Our goal all year has been to get to state,” Rooney said. “There’s not a lot of emphasis on anything else. We know where we want to go. We’ve played enough tournaments, and the kids know what they have to do. It’s do or die or go home.”
Both managers said the most important factor in a four-team double elimination tournament is pitching. But defense is also something both managers say is an important key.
“Once you get past pitching, it’s key hits and defense,” Moran said. “In 80 percent of our games, our defense has been exceptional. We field it and throw well. Every now and then we have a hiccup. Hopefully it’s a small one.”
Another key for Moran’s team will be the experience of his team.
“What you saw (in the district tournament) was people stepping up to lead in Ross Taylor, Sam Engle, Kirk Huismann, Michael Stroup – guys that were here,” he said. “They know you have to keep playing.”
For Rooney, he said holding the opponents down is the most important factor for the A’s.
“We need good pitching and defense,” he said. “Our hitting’s been there all year. I’d be surprised if it’s not there. In the games we’ve struggled, our defense hasn’t played great.”
One other key for the A’s will be the team’s health. Though the A’s have fought injuries most of the year, Rooney said the team is mostly healthy now.
“I think overall, this is the healthiest we’ve been all year,” Rooney said. “(Catcher Zach Sutton) is back to full health. (Outfielder Matt) McHenry’s been fighting to get his strength after surgery. He hasn’t been able to throw as hard as he needs. Now his arm is the strongest it’s been. Our pitching is shaping up well, no injuries there. This is the healthiest we’ve been.”
Rooney said it will definitely not be an easy tournament to win, as all four teams are capable of winning.
“St. Joe beat a lot of teams in the Fifth District,” he said. “They beat Post 21, which I consider to be an outstanding team. I think Sedalia beat Post 21, too. And Fike beat Post 21 to get in. They’re all capable of winning it.”