Mike Rooney has seen plenty of baseball and knows well enough to appreciate any win, even if the longtime American Legion manager can be quick to find some fault in a mercy-rule victory.
In their American Legion Wood Bat Invitational opener Wednesday at Blue Springs High School, Rooney’s Blue Springs Rod’s Sports A’s left 11 runners on base in five innings but still took enough advantage of eight walks for an 8-0 win over St. Joseph Post 11.
The A’s continue National League Green Division pool play today with an 11:30 a.m. game against St. Charles Post 11 at Blue Springs High School and a 7 p.m. game against Lincoln Post 3 Union Bank at Hidden Valley Park's Field 3.
“It’s always nice to win, though it could’ve been a lot better,” Rooney said after his team improved to 32-6. “We didn’t show much patience at the plate, but it worked out.”
One moment of impatience that Rooney probably remembered came in the first, when a fielder’s choice grounder followed back-to-back two-out walks. But in the second Nate Carlton’s two-out single plated starting pitcher Jared Lafal, who had led off with a single and advanced on a balk. In the third David Stober singled in Jeremy Lufft for a 2-0 lead.
The A's then loaded the bases with one out before St. Joseph (3-20) escaped on a bunt force out and infield pop-up.
Still, Lafal didn’t need much run support, as he allowed just three baserunners – two hits and an error – in five innings. The left-hander struck out three and escaped his only dangerous spot in the second thanks to an prolonged triple play.
Post 11 had runners at first and third with nobody out when Kolt Kanagie lifted a fly ball to shallow center. Jacob Forsythe tagged and tried to score as Stober made the catch, but Stober gathered himself and made a strong throw home to catcher Luke Miller in plenty of time for the tag. Drew McPike tried to advance from first on the throw, but Miller fired to shortstop Dillon Jackson at second in time for another tag.
“Fastball, pounding the zone,” Lafal said of his strong suit Wednesday. “You can feel comfortable on the mound when you know the defense has your back every pitch.
“The curveball was a little off, but it was a good two-strike or 1-2 pitch.”
St. Joseph starting pitcher Alex Archdieken had to exit after three innings. At the plate in the bottom of the third, Archdieken fell awkwardly after swinging at strike three and limped back to the dugout after coaches attended to him.
Lufft doubled in Jackson in the fourth and scored on Corbin Hare’s groundout. Lufft added an RBI single in the fifth after Kirk Finley and Carlton slid home on the back ends of double steals, and Jonathan Fink plated the eighth run when he bounced into a fielder’s choice with the bases loaded.
Jackson and Stober helped with two hits apiece in the A’s eight-hit output. Lafal said it was a relatively good offensive game considering it was the first with wooden bats.
“It feels a lot different – not quite as much pop,” he said. “But the guys on the team did a good job and got hits when they needed.”