As longtime American Legion rival Blue Springs Post 499/Fike took a 6-1 lead Friday morning in the Zone 2 Tournament at Dey Field, Josh Felz and his Independence Post 21 teammates knew the game was far from over.
As longtime American Legion rival Blue Springs Post 499/Fike took a 6-1 lead Friday morning in the Zone 2 Tournament at Liberty Park Stadium/Dey Field, Josh Felz and his Independence Post 21 teammates knew the game was far from over.
“I kept thinking about that game against the (Blue Springs Rod’s Sports) A’s when we were down 8-0 late in the (regular) season and we came back and won 14-10,” said Felz, whose bases-loaded single in the bottom of the ninth inning led Post 21 to a dramatic 7-6 come-from-behind victory.
“We were as confident when we were down 6-1 today as we were when we had the bases loaded and no outs in the bottom of the ninth. We just knew we were going to come back and find a way to win this game.”
One big factor in the win was reliever Justin Madsen (see sidebar), who retired all nine Fike batters he faced in three innings of perfect relief.
There were also some key hits throughout the Post 21 lineup – including Felz’s blooper in the bottom of the ninth of the 6-all tie.
Leadoff man Ross Paschall walked to open the bottom of the ninth off reliever Dylan Farrell. Cory Biegel then bunted in front of the plate and Farrell fielded the ball.
The Fike pitcher fired the ball to second base, and it sailed into center field.
Post 21 manager Tom Bush, coaching at third base, held up Paschall at second, not wanting to run into an out at third.
Fike manager Jim Moran then brought closer CJ Egelston in to pitch and Tyler Bodenstab greeted him with an infield single to load the bases.
“We had the right guy up at the right time,” Bush said when asked about Felz. “He’s been swinging the bat real well.”
His softest hit of the game was the most important as he hit an infield blooper that avoided Fike third baseman Rueben Paniagua.
“I didn’t want to run into a double play if their third baseman caught the ball,” Paschall said, “but I knew the bases were loaded and I didn’t want to get forced at the plate.”
The ball fell between two Fike infielders and Paschall crossed the plate with the winning run.
“It’s a great feeling to drive in the winning run,” Felz said, “but we’re just halfway to our goal of winning this zone tournament. We’ll celebrate if we get the chance to go to state.”
For much of Friday morning, it appeared Fike had a lock on the victory as starter Chad Worman was cruising on the mound and Egelston rocked a two-run homer to give Moran’s team a 3-1 fifth-inning lead.
Fike then scored three runs in the top of the sixth on RBI singles by Jared Ginter and Brett Valentine and Farrell’s fielder’s choice ground out.
Post 21 then used four hits, a hit batter and a Fike error to knot the score at 6-all following a five-run sixth inning.
Biegel led off with a walk and Bodenstab was hit by a pitch. Felz singled and Andrew Billingsley reached base on an infield error, driving home an unearned run.
Kyle Combs followed with an RBI single, Nick Andrales added a sacrifice fly, Connor Polacek had an RBI single and Paschall tied the game with an RBI single.
Fike couldn’t solve Madsen and Felz’s game-winning hit kept Post 21 in the winner’s bracket while Fike had to regroup and play St. Joseph later in the afternoon. Fike recovered and earned an 8-4 victory to stay alive in the tourney.
“We have to have a short memory,” said Moran, whose team plays either the A’s at 4 p.m. Saturday. “We can’t think about this loss, we have to come up with a way to beat St. Joseph. I know one thing, you can’t give a team like Post 21 five extra outs and expect to win.
“We’re making too many errors. Five errors in a game like this is just unacceptable.”
Ginter had three hits, three RBIs and scored two runs for Fike. Egelston added three hits and three RBIs.
Post 21 meets Sedalia Post 642 at 1 p.m. Saturday.