Earlier in the day, former Truman junior varsity baseball coach Steve Peck visited with some of the Patriots players in the weight room Monday.
Peck, who stepped away from coaching to deal with the life-altering disease, couldn’t make game against crosstown rival William Chrisman but was honored and recognized before the game as he’s battled cancer for the past two years.
Players and coaches from the Patriots and Bears released balloons in the air as a tribute to Peck. To cap off an emotional day, Nate Camby hit a walk-off RBI double in the bottom of the seventh to lift Truman to a 5-4 victory.
“He’s a great man, and he’s battled with cancer the last couple of years,” Truman coach Corey Lathrom said of Peck. “It’s kind of taken a toll on his body. He had a tumor removed from his brain and it affected his vision. He couldn’t drive, so he had to step away from coaching.
“He came up earlier in the day but he was tired from being on his feet. It was good for him and good for our guys to see him.”
Senior starting pitcher Kyler Barnett, who picked up the complete-game win, had some fond memories of playing for Peck as a freshman.
“I was on the C team and I played for Coach Peck all year,” Barnett said. “The guy just has a great baseball mind. He played in the minors and was drafted. Every time he opens his mouth, you’re taking what he says seriously. He’s a great guy – one of the nicest, warm-hearted guys I have ever met. I had a special bond with him. He means a lot to me.”
Camby, the Truman left fielder, feels the same away.
“He was on everyone’s mind,” Camby said of Peck. “I am glad we got to see him. I haven’t seen him in a couple years.”
Camby capped the emotional win with a double to deep left-center field off Bears starting pitcher Seth Gossett. The ball grazed of the tip of the glove of Chrisman left fielder Frankie Gervy and pinch runner Carter Brown crossed home plate to end it.
“I definitely had a little hope that it was going to go over (the fence),” said Camby, who was 0-for-3 with two strikeouts prior to that at-bat. “It got the job done, so I am not worried about it.”
Barnett compared Camby’s hit to the one former Kansas City Royals player Eric Hosmer hit in the American League wild card playoff against the Oakland Athletics in 2014. He hit a fly ball to left center field as Johnny Gomes and Sam Fuld collided to allow Kansas City to score the tying run and eventually win the game.
“He hasn’t had the start to the year he wanted. He’s our No. 4 hitter,” Barnett said. “There’s been times where he is way under stuff, It was good to see him finally get a hold of one.”
Lathrom said those are the kind of hits he expects from Camby.
“It was a good confidence builder,” Lathrom said. “He hits behind Josh Patrick, who’s one of the best hitters in the metro. Hitting behind a hitter like Josh can make him an all-stater if he does his job.”
Chrisman first baseman Jordan Mabie drilled a two-run double to the right-centerfield gap in the top of the first to give the Bears a 2-0 lead in the top of the first inning.
Truman answered with three runs in the bottom half. Patrick smacked an RBI double down the left-field line and then scored on Alex Kahn’s double. Khan later scored when Jaden Evans drilled an RBI single to center to put the Patriots ahead 3-2.
Billy Ross smoked an RBI double to left field as a misplayed hop allowed him to make it to second base in the second inning. Ross later scored on Gossett’s RBI fly ball single to center field, but the Bears pitcher was gunned down trying to stretch the hit into a double.
After that, Barnett settled down, retiring 10 of the next 13 batters and helped himself by picking off a pair of runners. He allowed four runs on seven hits and three walks and struck out nine in seven innings. He also went 3-for-3 with an RBI.
“A win against Chrisman means a lot to me,” Barnett said. “This is the one I wanted. I emailed coach today to make sure I still had the ball.”
Truman shortstop Zach Servi tied the game with a sacrifice fly in the fourth before Camby won it in the seventh.
Gossett allowed five runs on 10 hits, walked one and struck out seven in 6 2/3 innings to suffer the loss.
“He pitched really well,” Chrisman coach Miles Shelton said of Gossett. “I am glad we didn’t go into extras because he would have been mad at me for taking him out. He’s going to be doing that all year long.”
Evans aided Truman (4-3) with two hits and an RBI. Ross led Chrisman (1-3) with three hits and Gossett had two.