In what started out as a routine 6-4-3 double play for Independence Post 21 turned into a rare moment for an American Legion baseball game.
In the bottom of the sixth inning, Blue Springs Post 499 Fike’s Aaron Jones hit a ground ball to Independence shortstop Jaden Melissinas with the bases loaded. Melissinas flipped it to second baseman Bradley Menzies for the force out and Menzies threw it to first base to complete the double play.
First baseman Blake Hutson then threw to third baseman Brett Lundquist after Fike’s Rhett Smith initially ran back to second base and broke late for third base. Smith was tagged out for a triple play, but Hayden Engman was able to score before the tag was applied.
Fike survived the unusual play that didn’t go its way in a 5-3 win in the first game of a doubleheader Thursday at Hidden Valley Park. Fike later completed the sweep with a 5-2 win in the nightcap.
“That was really exciting to see,” Post 21 manager Greg Lundqust said. “I’ve never seen a triple play at this age. It was pretty unusual.”
Despite the triple play, Fike won its first game for new manager Matt Hagerty, who was a bench coach last season.
“That was a little wild,” Hagerty said. “Very unusual. Our guy was sleeping a little. It shouldn’t have happened. It happened so quick, it’s hard to know what’s going on.”
Blue Springs was guided by a strong performance from starting pitcher Tyler Slinkard, who surrendered three unearned runs on five hits, walked two and struck out six. He hit Bryce Greenwald with a pitch with the bases loaded in the second inning for Post 21’s first run. An infield error scored two more for Independence in the third.
“I felt pretty good. I controlled my curveball pretty good,” Slinkerd said. “I do need to work on my fastball but it’s just the first game of the season.”
After Post 21 scored in the top of the second, Fike tied it with Jones’ sacrifice fly in the bottom of the inning.
Independence took a 3-1 lead in the bottom of the fourth before Christian Lynn hit a bases-loaded double over the head of left fielder Austin Lewis to put Fike ahead 4-3.
Fike added the run just before the triple play to make it 5-3 and was able to hang on.
“He threw a fastball middle in,” Lynn said of his double. “He left it a little up and I put a good swing on it. That got the job done.”
Added Hagerty: “Christian is one of our better hitters. He did what he’s supposed to do and hit a gap.”
Post 499 comes into the season with just four returning players and a host of newcomers. Hagerty noted that he expects all of them to play next season, as well.
“We’ve got a lot of new guys and it’s going to take a little time to get everything together and get everyone functioning as a group,” Hagerty said. “I think we have quite a bit of talent and I am hopeful we will be competitive this year.”
In Game 2, Nathan Fine tossed another gem for Fike, pitching five shutout innings. He allowed just three hits, walked three and struck out eight in the 5-2 win.
Lynn again helped pace the offense by going 2-for-3 with a run scored; Easton Hermsen was 2-for-4 with an RBI; Caden Rardon was 2-for-3 with a run; and Smith had a hit and two RBIs.
Mason Chance suffered the loss for Post 21 as he gave up five runs (four earned) on six hits, walked seven and struck out one. Melissinas and Cody Pleacher each had a hit and an RBI for Independence.