Taking a chance in extra innings with one of the fastest members of the Truman High School baseball team, the Patriots are headed somewhere they haven’t been in seven years: a sectional playoff game.
Speed can’t be taught, but it’s nice to have.
Taking a chance in extra innings with one of the fastest members of the Truman High School baseball team, the Patriots are headed somewhere they haven’t been in seven years – a Class 4 state sectional playoff game.
Brian Read raced from first to home after an errand throw to first base to score the game-winning run as Truman topped Fort Osage 8-7 in nine innings Saturday in the Class 4 District 15 championship game at Fort Osage.
Truman got to the championship game by defeating Winnetonka 15-5 earlier in the day and Fort Osage downed North Kansas City 12-8 to advance.
With the win over Fort Osage, the Patriots claimed the program’s first district title since 2003 and face Park Hill in sectional play Tuesday at 3:30 p.m. at Park Hill.
“The players won this game,” six-year Truman head coach John Eglich said after his team improved to 15-8 overall. “They earned it. We’ve been here before and we’ve come up short. They earned it this year. All the credit to them.”
The Patriots had to outlast a banged-up Fort Osage team. Indians infielder Bret Sutton broke his thumb against North Kansas City and second baseman Spencer Gearhart was out injured with a torn meniscus in his knee.
The scrappy Indians, the road team by virtue of Truman’s No. 1 seed, jumped out to a 2-0 first inning lead on a two-RBI single by senior first baseman Steven Snyder, then extended the lead to 4-0 on Alex Greer’s two-run home run in the top of the third.
Truman answered in the bottom half of the third to cut the lead to 4-3 before ripping off a four-run fourth to take a 7-4 lead.
Again the Indians scrapped, tacking on three runs in the top of the fifth to tie the game at 7-7.
“They fought hard all the way until the end,” Fort Osage head coach Chris Walker said of his squad. “You come out here in the district finals you have to have your ‘A’ game. There were some physical mistakes that I think hurt us.
“(Devin) Shores came in (to relieve starter Andrew Jennings) after that fourth inning and pitched a great rest of the ballgame. He kept a good Truman team in check on the mound. I mean, our guys stayed with it.”
The teams played to a stalemate before Read led off the bottom of the ninth with a bunt single.
“Coach was telling us to shorten up our swings, put the ball in play and get a base hit,” said an exuberant Read, an outfielder. “I was getting a drink because I was leading off the inning, but I overheard it. I’m like: ‘He said, ‘Get on base’ – might as well lay one down and use my speed for something.’”
Outfielder Will Nesbit followed with a sacrifice bunt that Shores fielded but threw wide of Snyder at first base and into the right-field corner. Picking up Eglich at third waving him on, Read put it in high gear and never slowed as he came across the plate sliding to score, beating the throw by Indians right fielder Drew Standifer by mere inches.
“I was trying to run as fast as I could, but you know when you’re trying to run as fast as you can you feel like you’re in slow motion,” Read said of his jaunt to home plate. “From third to home, it felt like it took me about nine seconds. It felt like my feet were stuck in concrete.”
Nesbit said when he saw the ball get past Snyder at first, he had a good feeling Read would make it safely to home plate.
“I was just trying to move the runner over,” Nesbit said. “You know Read’s quick, so I mean, I got it through and apparently he overthrew it to first. When I saw the ball, I knew that Read would get home because he’s quick. I mean, this is districts – and I mean this really goes for the whole team – this is a team win. This is good.”
Sutton, who is headed to Western Kentucky, said he and a group of Fort Osage seniors are leaving behind a good nucleus of young players and hope they take the lessons learned from a 15-10 season and make a deeper run into next year’s playoffs.
“It’s my last high school game, and I won’t ever play with those guys again,” said Sutton, who played the championship game with a wrap and tape on his broken right thumb. “They’ll be good next year, I know. I just hope the learned something from playing with us seniors.
“I sure they can take something from this season and take it into next season because that’s what it’s all about. Hopefully, I can do the same thing and take something into college.”
The Indians, champions this season of the Suburban Middle Six conference, have played for the district title seven consecutive years and have come up short the last four seasons.
“The kids have just got to finish the season strong,” Walker said. “I thought we had it lined up for us. We had a couple of injuries, but we’ve just got to continue to play out the season.”
For Read and the Patriots, a long day of baseball ended just how they dreamed it would when they set their goal sheets at the beginning of the season.
“When everybody came and jump on me, I told myself, ‘It’s real; we just won districts,’ ” Read said. “The kind of year it’s been – practice inside after thunderstorms for four days straight – it seems like it all finally paid off.”
A locked-in Kyle Gehrs gave up three runs in six innings of relief for Truman starter James O’Dell to pick up the win and improve his record to 3-2.
Losing pitcher Shores surrendered just one run over five innings of relief.