Blue Springs Post 499/Junior Fike left fielder Trevor Wendleton turned his back and sprinted toward the fence. He chased the game and – potentially – his team’s season.

Blue Springs Post 499/Junior Fike left fielder Trevor Wendleton turned his back and sprinted toward the fence. He chased the game and – potentially – his team’s season.

Two and a half innings earlier, Fike rallied for a pair of runs in the fifth to tie Saturday’s Junior American Legion State Championship against Daniel Boone Augusta Post 262. But with a violent swing, Daniel Boone clean-up hitter Hunter Murphy cracked a drive off of Fike reliever Braden Younkin in the bottom of the seventh that seemed destined to send the teams to a decisive second game at Hidden Valley Park.

As Wendleton turned his back toward home, plenty of thoughts raced through his mind as he pumped his legs.

“The feeling when it hit off the bat, I was so worried,” he said. “I thought that was about to go out and the game was about to be over.”

Fike coach Dave Benson said he initially thought the blast looked like a routine pop-up, but quickly realized with the wind blowing out that the ball had a good chance of leaving the park.

But there was Wendleton, first dashing and then turning, raising his glove, reaching over his head and snaring the shot. It was the kind of catch you see in big league stadiums, the kind of play that prompts coaches to break into hyperbole.

“That was amazing,” Benson said. “... That was awesome. For him to track a ball that long at this level – normally when a kid hits a ball that far, sometimes outfielders just tend to give up on it. He didn’t. He tracked it that far.

“And he would have ran through that wall if it meant catching it. That’s just the kind of kid he is.”

Wendleton said he got a good read on the ball before the wind caught it. That allowed him to keep his sights set on it until he reached the wall. At that point, it was just a matter of concentration.

“It’s nervousness and focus at the same time,” said Wendleton, who also finished 2-for-4 and scored a run in the 4-3 eight-inning victory. “But as long as you’re focused and do what you’ve been taught since you were a little kid, you can pull it off.”

The grab not only ended the inning, but generated a jolt in the Fike dugout. As Wendleton jogged in, he was greeted by a swarm of teammates who dished out a round of chest-bumps.

“That’s kind of what we do,” Benson said. “In all of our comebacks this summer – and we’ve had several – there’s been one or two plays that have sparked us. Like, ‘OK, this is it. Something’s happening now.’”

J.J. Kirwin started the next frame with a double for Fike and Andrew Tritsch followed with a single. Kirwin eventually scored on Cale Benson’s sacrifice fly and Younkin sent Daniel Boone down in order to clinch the championship.

Contributions were made by Fike players up and down the lineup and across the field Saturday. But it was Wendleton’s catch, the threat it ended and the energy it garnered, that turned the game’s momentum in Fike’s favor.

“I know they’re young men out here, but they’re still young kids playing a game and that joy comes out,” Dave Benson said. “That joy that comes out when you see them make a good play to pick their buddies up – especially in a state title game.
“Yeah, there was some chest-bumping going on for sure.”