Lee’s Summit West coach Jay Meyer, a former pitcher and head coach at Truman High School, made the long trek to the mound to visit with Titans closer Sammy Cooper late Tuesday afternoon at Blue Springs High School.
The score was knotted at 10-all and reigning Examiner Player of the Year Jake Lufft – who had two doubles and five RBIs already – was at the plate with two outs in the bottom of the seventh inning of a game the Titans went on to win 12-10 in nine innings.
“We discussed all my options,” said Cooper, who wound up talking his coach into letting him pitch to one of the most dangerous hitters in the metro area. “I love a challenge – and you don’t get a better challenge than facing Jake Lufft with the winning run on third base.”
Meyer’s decision caught Blue Springs coach Tim McElligott off guard.
“To be honest with you, I thought they’d walk Jake and Caleb (Marquez, who hit a monster two-run homer in the third inning that cut through a strong head wind to easily clear the left-field fence).
“I have a lot of faith in Andrew (Garry, who hits behind Marquez), but if I’m in that situation, Jake and Caleb don’t see a pitch.”
As Meyer walked off the mound, he caught the attention of Lufft, and gave him a wink.
“I love Jake Lufft, one of my favorite players,” Meyer said. “I was PO’d he didn’t play third base today because we always have a great visit over there. I talked with Sammy and we talked about the different scenarios.
“It had to be the right situation for him to pitch to Jake. If Sammy got behind one or two pitches, we were going to go ahead and walk him. We hadn’t gotten that far in our talk to discuss what we would have done with Marquez, but Sammy got the big out and we got the win in a pretty crazy game.”
Cooper coaxed Lufft to hit a fly ball to right field and the game went into extra innings.
“Their pitcher made a nice pitch; he got me,” Lufft said, managing a smile. “I was kind of surprised they pitched to me. I appreciated it that they did, because you want to be up in those situations.
“I didn’t get it done tonight, but the big games are coming up next week (at district).”
The Titans claimed the conference win by scoring two runs in the top of the ninth off Mason Eaton, the fifth Wildcats pitcher.
Byron Payton led off with a walk and scored on Carter Young’s double. Young went to third on a throwing error on the throw to the plate and then scored on Trevor Kardell’s sacrifice fly to right field.
Marquez led off the bottom of the ninth with a single, but Cooper retired the next three batters to pick up the victory.
“When Lufft made that last out in the eighth, I breathed a sigh of relief because we were still in the game and I knew Marquez couldn’t hit a game-winning homer in the ninth because he was going to be leading off,” Meyer said after the Titans finished the regular season with a 17-11 overall mark and 6-6 conference record.
“It was a good game for both teams going into district next week. Tim and I each used a lot of pitchers, we were able to execute some bunts, execute some plays that might help each team next week. I know I’m a little bit happier than he is because we won, but we love coming over to his place because he always has such competitive teams.”
McElligott had a quick post-game session with his team following the 3-hour, 6-minute extra-inning contest, and managed a smile.
“Jay’s kids play the game the way it should be played, hat’s off to them,” McElligott said after the Wildcats wrapped up a 20-10 and 7-5 regular season. “A hit here or there, or a defensive play here or there and who knows?
“We had our chances, and when they needed a big hit or needed to make a big pitch, they did.”
Despite the loss, the stadium was still buzzing over Marquez’s homer into the wind in the bottom of the third inning.
“I don’t really know how I hit it,” Marquez said, grinning. “Maybe the baseball gods were with me today and wanted to see another home run.”
He hit a walk-off grand slam homer Monday to lift the Wildcats to an 8-6 victory over Lee’s Summit North.
“We’ve had a couple of crazy games back to back,” Marquez added. “We’re going to be ready for district next week. It’s at our place and we can’t wait.”