Blue Springs Post 499 Fike overcomes slow start to advance in Zone 2 Tournament

By Bill Althaus
The Examiner
Blue Springs Post 499 Fike runner Jacob Rehkow (7) beats the throw home in an American Legion Zone 2 Tournament first-round game against the Harrison County Hot Rods Wednesday at Hidden Valley Park. Fike rallied from a 6-0 deficit to claim a 14-6 win.

For four innings, top-seeded Blue Springs Post 499 Fike trailed No. 8 Harrison County from Bethany, Mo. 

The Hot Rods led 6-0 and starting pitcher Matthew Heitz had allowed just three hits and had four strikeouts in the first-round game in the American Legion Zone 2 Tournament. 

“I believe we were a bit overconfident when we went is as a No. 1 seed, because we beat them in a doubleheader last Friday in the last games of the regular season,” said Fike manager Matt Hagerty, whose team scored four runs in the fifth and 10 in the sixth to rally for a 14-6 victory Wednesday at Hidden Valley Park’s Jim Moran Field. 

“It was pretty quiet in our dugout until we started to get some hits in the fifth, then everyone came to life. And that was the message I gave the guys after the game – you have to show up and play if you want to win a zone tournament. And I think they got the message.” 

Although he allowed all six Hot Rod runs, starter Johnny Miles kept Fike in the game, as some fielding miscues and an error paved the way for Harrison County’s lead. 

Blue Springs Post 499 pitcher Johnny Miles (4) bumps fists with assistant coach Robert Smith after getting the Harrison County Hot Rods out in an American Legion Zone 2 Tournament first-round game Wednesday at Hidden Valley Park. Harrison County jumped to a 6-0 lead but Fike rallied for a 14-6 win.

“I’d like to have stayed in the game,” said Miles, who came within five pitches of the zone tournament limit of 105, “but all I care about is that we won. “Once we started hitting the ball, everyone got real loud and excited. It was fun to watch.” 

And the beneficiary of Fike’s newfound offense was Brett Stewart, who retired the last batter in the sixth inning and pitched a scoreless seventh to get the victory. 

“Even though we were down (6-0) when I came in, I felt like it was important to not allow any more runs,” Stewart said. “We got off to the slow start, but we were all just waiting for our offense to come around, and it did.” 

Heitz, who had been so effective in the first four innings, allowed four runs in the bottom of the fifth, with three scoring when a fly ball to right field was dropped. 

Shorty Campbell had the lone RBI in the inning with a sacrifice fly. 

The wheels came off for Heitz and Harrison County in the sixth inning, as he battled his control and allowed four runs before Cameron Jones came on in relief and allowed six more runs. 

Blue Springs Post 499 Fike hitter Ty Campbell slugs a two-run double in the sixth inning of an American Legion Zone 2 Tournament first-round game against the Harrison County Hot Rods Wednesday at Hidden Valley Park. Campbell's hit put Fike ahead 7-6 on the way to a 14-6 victory.

“Once we started hitting, we really did well – like we should have been doing the entire game,” said Ty Campbell, who put Fike ahead 7-6 with a two-run double in the sixth inning. 

“We’re so much better than we showed in the first four innings. But it shows that you better be ready to play, whoever you play, in a big tournament like this because anything can happen. 

“We were confident that we were going to win, we just didn’t think we’d be down 6-0 before we started playing the way we’re capable of playing.” 

Brad Kitsmiller had two singles, scored two runs and had two RBIs in the sixth inning and Trent Trieb walked, singled and scored two runs. 

Fike (24-13) advances to the winners’ bracket semifinals and faces the Sedalia Post 642 Travelers at 5 p.m. Thursday. 

Blue Springs Post 499 Fike second baseman Brad Kitsmiller (15) tags out a Harrison County Hot Rods runner in a rundown as teammate Ty Campbell looks on during an American Legion Zone 2 Tournament first-round game Wednesday at Hidden Valley Park. Fike went on to a 14-6 victory.