Corey Lathrom was grinning from ear to ear as he approached Truman High School activities director Daniel Bieser following a sweep of William Chrisman Wednesday afternoon.
"I just asked Daniel to order a banner for our ‘undefeated’ season," the Truman baseball coach said following 15-4 and 4-3 wins over the Bears on Chrisman’s new turf field. "I told him he could even put an asterisk by it. We were 5-0, and it was our season."
The Patriots downed the Bears in five games this week that were part of the all-Independence series that featured girls soccer, golf, tennis and track and field to help make up for the spring seasons lost to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In a more serious tone, Lathrom then added, "The way we’ve played this week makes it even tougher to not have an entire season because our guys came to play every day. I couldn’t be any prouder of them."
The two wins Wednesday were a study in contrasts as the Patriots, who were no-hit for three innings, exploded for 15 runs over the last four frames to claim the 15-4 victory.
Senior Bradley Menzies’ bases-clearing double in a six-run fourth inning was one of the biggest blows of that game.
"I haven’t been hitting that well and it really felt good to contribute to that win," Menzies said. "They had us down 4-0 going into the fourth inning and we really exploded. We really came together as a team. I didn’t think there was a chance in a million we’d ever play this season, and it’s so great the school district let us play this week."
While the first game was a slugfest, the second was a nail-biter as Truman senior Holden Brooks, with seventh-inning relief help from senior Austin Lewis, outdueled hard luck loser Billy Ross, who allowed just one earned run.
Truman scored two unearned runs in the top of the first inning on a two-run single by Braeden Schramm.
The Patriots added a solo run in the fifth when Dane Blankenship struck out on a wild pitch but reached first base and raced to third on a throwing error. He then scored on Randy Ayala-Lopez’s RBI single.
The lone earned run came in the sixth. Menzies tripled and scored on a sacrifice fly by Lewis, who would pick up the save the next inning.
Chrisman scored all three of its runs in the bottom of the sixth on three singles and a double.
It was 4-3 going into the bottom of the seventh when Ross smacked a Lewis pitch to deep right center field, but it was run down by Schramm.
"Schramm’s a great outfielder," Lewis said, "but I respect Billy and I know he can hit the ball. I’m just glad he hit it where he did – in the deepest part of the outfield."
Lewis then retired the next two batters and the Truman celebration began.
Brooks pitched out of a bases-loaded, no-outs jam in the fourth, which was a turning point in the game.
"I know I have great defense behind me," Brooks said. "My guys backed me up every time I pitched. This is just a great way to end the season."
Like Lathrom, Bears coach Miles Shelton was proud of his team, and pleased they had the opportunity to play the Patriots and Van Horn Falcons.
"We got that one win against Van Horn, and Truman was able to find a way to get us in the next five games," Shelton said. "But I couldn’t be any prouder of our guys. They fought hard and came ready to play and that’s all a coach can ask of his team."
Freshman Joseph Cole had a big afternoon for the Bears as he hit a two-run homer, walked two times and singled in the first game.
"We saw a lot of good things from our seniors, and we’re going to miss them, but a lot of our underclassmen played well too, which really gets me excited for next season," Shelton said.
Another freshman, Trey Kates, also homered in the series. He did not play Wednesday because of a prior commitment.