Little things – like four successful sacrifice bunts and a run-scoring sacrifice fly – paid huge dividends for Blue Springs Post 499 Fike.
The result was an 8-2 victory over St. Joseph Post 11 Wednesday afternoon in a first-round game in the American Legion Zone 2 Tournament at Hidden Valley Park.
With the win, Fike will play the Lee’s Summit Outlaws in a winners’ bracket semifinal at 4 p.m. today on Jim Moran Field at Hidden Valley. The Outlaws spread Independence Post 21 10-0 in another first-round game Wednesday (see related story).
“That’s small ball, and when we play successful small ball, we usually get a win,” Fike manager Matt Hagerty said after his team improved to 18-13 overall. “We got our bunts down and the guys came up and got some big RBIs.
“And Nate (Fine) and Easton (Harmsen) got the job done on the mound. This was a good win for our guys, a good way to start the zone tournament.”
The biggest beneficiary of small ball was Fike’s Tommy Mortallaro, who had an RBI single, an RBI sacrifice and a two-run, bases-loaded double.
“We’re a pretty good team when we get our bunts down and get pitching like we got today,” said Mortallaro, who finished with two hits and four RBIs from his No. 5 slot in the batting order.
“An error or two made it a little bit tougher for Nate than it should have been. He pitched a great game, and Easton came in and got out of that tough (bases-loaded) jam and got a big save.
“This team means so much to me. This is my third and final year and I don’t want the season to end. If we keep playing like we did today, I think we could have a lot of success the rest of the way.”
Three infield errors led to two unearned runs for St. Joseph, but Fine was quick to thank his defense for its work while he was on the mound.
“Everyone knows I don’t throw hard, and the guys played well today – they made some great plays while I was on the mound and while Easton was pitching,” said Fine, who allowed just two earned runs and six hits in 5 1/3 innings. “This is the time of the year when you want to play your best and we played well enough to win today, and that was all that mattered. And Easton came in and got it done. He was great.”
Harmsen came in with one out in the sixth and walked the first batter he faced to load the bases with the score 8-6.
“I knew the tying and go-ahead runs were on base, but I just concentrated to get out of the inning without giving up any more runs,” Harmsen said. “The first guy, I wasn’t loose, and I walked him. With the bases loaded I knew I couldn’t make any mistakes and I was able to pitch out of it and save the game for Nate.”
Harmsen struck out one batter and got the final out on a pop-out to left field.
He retired the side in order in the seventh with shortstop Christian Lynn making two dazzling plays deep in the hole to retire batters at first base.
“We made some mistakes in the field,” Hagerty said, “but we really made some nice defensive plays, too, especially Christian at short.”
No. 8 hitter Johnny Miles had three successful sacrifice bunts that led to two early Fike runs.
“You look at the scorer’s book and Johnny didn’t have an official at-bat,” Hagerty said, grinning, “but no one had a bigger game at the plate than Johnny. This isn’t the most offensive team you are ever going to see, but when we get the bunts down and play smart ball like we did tonight, we can be a very good team.”
Harmsen, Deryk Casey and Hayden Engman all had two hits each for Fike. Harmsen and Engman scored two runs each.
Tanner Schmidt had two hits, two RBIs and scored a run to pace St. Joseph Post 11.