Over the past two decades, some of the most meaningful baseball games in the Suburban Conference’s big division have been decided when Blue Springs and Lee’s Summit North step on the field.
Each program is struggling this year, but that didn’t keep the longtime rivals from delivering a nail-biter as the visiting Wildcats pushed across a run in the top of the seventh inning and held on for a dramatic 2-1 Suburban Big Six victory over the host Broncos on a perfect Friday afternoon at Bronco Stadium.
Blue Springs junior Aiden Smith, who has been victimized this season by a lack of run support, threw a two-hitter and did not allow an earned run as he picked up his first win of the season.
Broncos starter Tucker Nunnenkamp allowed two runs and seven hits, and finished with seven strikeouts.
The Broncos pushed across an unearned run in the bottom of the first inning when leadoff man Dameon Velasquez reached on a two-base error, advanced to third on a groundout and scored on Joseph Thomas’ ground ball out to deep shortstop.
The Wildcats tied the game at 1-all in the fifth on Tanner Martin’s triple and a sacrifice bunt by Taylor Warren that Nunnenkamp bobbled as he picked it up near home plate.
Blue Springs’ Mitchell Smith led off the top of the seventh with a double and scored on Trevor Blackwell’s line-drive single to right field to help Smith win his first game of the season.
“Aiden has pitched so well for us all season and we really wanted to win this game for him,” Mitchell Smith said after the Wildcats improved to 8-13 and 2-5 in conference play. “I got on, but Trevor got the biggest hit – that was huge getting a hit to score me from second.”
“It just felt so good to get that run home to help Aiden get the win,” Blackwell said. “We’ve struggled this year, but we’re playing pretty well right now and a win like this is huge. I think we can build off this win the rest of the season.”
Smith allowed a third-inning single to Velasquez and retired nine straight batters before Christian Whiting singled with one out in the bottom of the seventh for the Broncos.
Lane Overton laid down a perfect sacrifice bunt as Smith and Blackwell, the Wildcats catcher, nearly collided. Smith avoided Blackwell and he gunned down the runner at first, as Whiting went to second base.
The game ended when Wyatt Urzendowski hit a sharp ground ball to Austin Neuweg at shortstop, who retired the batter on a close play at first.
“It just feels great to pitch well and help us win a game,” said Smith, who seven strikeouts and walked just one batter. “Neither team has a very good record, but this was a pretty big game because it was a conference game and we want to play well at this time of the season.”
Both coaches were pleased with their teams’ collective efforts.
“We got the big hit when we needed it, and that is something we haven’t done much this season – get a timely hit,” Wildcats coach Tim McElligott said. “I have so much respect for Mike (Westacott) and his program. Like you said, we’re not playing as well as we’ve played in the past, but it’s always fun and usually a good game when we play them.
“And Aiden pitched a great game. It’s about time we got some runs for him – even though we just got two – he made sure two were enough.”
Westacott praised his 6-20, 1-5 Broncos.
“A great job by both pitchers today,” Westacott said. “And our guys played well. Tim and I were talking and we’ve played a lot of games against each other’s teams over the years and this was a good one. They managed to get the big hit at the end and we came up a little bit short.”