Blue Springs Post 499 Fike didn’t get a hit against rival Blue Springs Rod’s Sports A’s until the fifth inning Tuesday.
But once it did, the offense got going.
While Fike didn’t score in the fifth inning, a four-run sixth inning – jump-started by Tommy Mortallaro’s triple – helped it capture a 6-3 victory in Game 1 of a Zone 2 doubleheader. The A’s earned a split after taking the nightcap 10-1.
“I am pretty happy with our offense as a whole,” Fike manager Matt Hagerty said after the first game. “We’re not going to bomb people. We’re going to scratch and claw for runs all year.”
Post 499 has started the season with a 5-2 record and the pitching of Tyler Slinkerd has contributed to two of those wins. He notched another quality start (pitching at least six innings and allowing three runs or less) despite a shaky start. His performance helped keep it close even when Fike couldn’t come up with hits in the first four innings. He allowed three runs on seven hits, walked five and struck out one.
“He’s been throwing the curveball real well all year,” Hagerty said. “That’s been his best pitch consistently. He’s our 1A and Nate (Fine) is 1B.”
Slinkerd surrendered two runs in the bottom of the first after walking three consecutive batters and giving up a sacrifice fly to Sam Carlson and a infield RBI single to Matt Eisenreich. He was also helped by right fielder Brad Kitsmiller, who made a diving catch after a blooper off the bat of Jake Reed, saving two runs and ending the inning.
After that, Slinkerd settled down and allowed just five hits and one run in his next five innings.
“The beginning was a little rough, but once I started working on my fastball a little more, I got the kids to swing on that a lot,” Slinkerd said. “The zone was a little tight. I didn’t think there was any corners. Later in the game, the zone was a little bigger. That helped a lot.”
Fike tied the game in the top of the third without getting a single hit. It worked three walks against A’s starter Coter Nelson. A bad pickoff throw to second base allowed one run to score and Mortallaro’s grounder that led to a force out at second base tied it.
After Slinkerd escaped a bases-loaded, two-out jam in the fourth, he gave up a walk, a single and a sacrifice fly to Dempsey Graves as the A’s took a 3-2 lead in the bottom of the fifth inning.
The Fike bats came alive in the sixth after Easton Harmsen got the first hit in the fifth inning. Mortallaro hit a triple over the head of Michael Bledsoe, who was playing shallow in right field.
He then scored on a sharp groundball single to left from Deryk Carey to knot the score at 3-all. Post 499 later had runners at second and third with one out when Aaron Jones hit a ground ball to Reed at second base.
Instead of going for the out at first base, he threw the ball home trying to get Casey at home. The throw was late and Fike took a 4-3 lead. Kitsmiller scored on a wild pitch for the final run in the sixth and Carey completed the scoring with an RBI double to deep left field to score Mortallaro from first base in the seventh.
“We were swinging at way too many bad pitches way too early,” Mortallaro said. “(The triple came on) an inside fastball and you can’t lay off it. I turned on that one.”
A’s manager Tom Bush said his pitchers’ lack of control led to Fike coming back to take the lead.
“We walked too many people,” said Bush, whose team is now 3-3. “We walked seven and we hit two, so that’s nine base runners right there that we gave them. We can’t do that, especially with the way that we’re hitting right now. When those kind of things happen, you dig yourself in a hole.”
Carey paced the Fike offense with two hits and two RBIs; Mortallaro had two hits, two runs and an RBI; and Harmsen reached base three times.
Bryce Perddieu was the losing pitcher, allowing three runs on four hits, walking one and striking out three. Eisenreich led the A’s offense with two hits and an RBI.
“We have four or five kids who didn’t play high school ball, so some of us are just getting started,” Bush said. “They have a lot to learn. Hopefully we can get into baseball shape mentally and physically and turn this thing around.”
In Game 2, the A’s were guided by a strong pitching performance from Eisenreich, who tossed five innings and allowed just one run on four hits, walked one and struck out six to pick up the win.
Christian Garcia led the A’s offense by going 2-for-4 with a run, a triple, a double and two RBIs; Cam Leftwich had a double, a run and two RBIs; Cade Bissell had one hit, two walks and three runs; and Micah Copeland had a triple and two RBIs.
Fine suffered the loss as he gave up eight runs (six earned) on five hits, walked six and struck out five. Harmsen had a hit and an RBI to lead the Fike offense.