Blue Springs Elks make progress but drop Wood Bat Invitational openers

By Bill Althaus
The Examiner

Even though his Blue Springs Elks dropped their first two games in the 32nd annual American Legion Wood Bat Invitational, manager Jeff Barnett was pleased with the progress he saw throughout the afternoon. 

The Elks dropped their opening game 8-0 to Jefferson City Post 5, but rebounded to give the Omaha (Neb.) Spikes all they could handle before giving up two unearned runs in a 3-2 loss Wednesday afternoon at Hidden Valley Park’s Jim Moran Field. 

"The 8-0 loss wasn't as bad as the score might indicate," Barnett said. "It was a good game until they had a big fifth inning and got the win. 

"Easton Lamb threw a complete game, and it was a real pitchers' battle until they scored those five runs and took control of the game.” 

Mistakes were costly, though, in the second game. 

"Our second game was one we could have won, but we made some costly mistakes that led to those two unearned runs in the fifth and sixth innings,” Barnett said. “It's tough to follow up an 8-0 loss with another game, and our guys came out ready to play. 

"It's just a shame we didn't win that game, because we had so many opportunities to win it." 

The downfall for the Elks came in the error department as they committed five errors and had just three base hits. 

"It would have been huge to win this game," Elks center fielder Randy Ayala said after the 3-2 loss. "We had the lead – which we never had in our first game – and we could have held onto it, but we made some mistakes and they cost us. But we played well enough to take a 2-1 lead into the fifth inning. And that's a big step for our team." 

Ayala gave the Elks a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the second on an RBI single. The Elks took a 2-1 lead in the fourth on Trey Stone's RBI single. 

But the Spikes made the Elks pay for three costly errors late that led to the game-tying and winning runs. Omaha leadoff hitter Kaden Jackson Wingo tied the game with an RBI single in the fifth and Korey Hedrick-Pittman drove home the game-winner in the sixth with an RBI triple. 

Patrick Maloney, who allowed the two unearned runs in two innings of relief, was the tough-luck loser. Brady Lowe started the game for the Elks and allowed just one run in four innings. 

"I can see improvement from our guys," an upbeat Barnett said. "We're missing some guys due to injury, and I'm not using that as an excuse, but the guys we had today played hard. And when you play hard, good things are going to happen – and good things are going to happen to this team soon."