Tigers withstand challenges, beat Pirates 6-3

By Kyle Smith Democrat Sports Editor

May 14, 2014

The Boonville Pirates couldn’t keep the Smith-Cotton baseball team down.

The Tigers coughed up a 3-0 lead, Chance McMullin made a huge defensive play, and they beat the Pirates 6-3 Wednesday at Liberty Park Stadium-Dey Field for their seventh straight win.

“They’re a heck of a team,” S-C coach Jud Kindle said of Boonville, which fell to 17-8 and is ranked No. 6 in Class 4. “They definitely have some very good looking athletes that can hit. … It’s a day where small things were going to play a factor with how cold it was. We did a couple more small things to get the job done. You’ve got to give them credit. They’re a really good team. We beat a good team today. We’ve been playing with really good teams. We need to keep playing like this when we get to districts, and we’ll be in good shape.”

The Tigers scored two runs in the fourth to take a 5-3 lead, but Boonville threatened in the fifth.

Starting pitcher Cody Kozak struck Jacob Francis with a pitch, and with one out, Ethan Sander singled to put runners at first and second. Austin Bullerd relieved Kozak but uncorked a wild pitch that allowed the runners to move to second and third.

Keaton Barnes lifted a fly ball to deep center field that McMullin chased down for the second out. Francis then trotted toward home plate, but McMullin threw a dart to Brown at third base. Brown tagged out the runner before Francis reached home plate, ending the inning and stranding the runner.

“We knew if they hit a pop fly over our heads in the outfield, we were supposed to throw to third,” McMullin said. “I just came up shooting, and I got him. Great play by Dakota Brown with the tag.”

Bullerd retired the next six batters to end the game and preserve the win for Kozak, who allowed no earned runs on six hits in 4 2-3 innings.

Boonville starter Alec Viertel struggled with his control early.

The Tigers struck for three runs in the first inning, sending eight batters to the plate. Viertel walked a batter and allowed four hits, including doubles by Steven Bradbury and Kozak.

McMullin singled and Bradbury doubled, putting runners at second and third with no outs. McMullin scored on a wild pitch, and Bradbury came home on Nick Hagedorn’s grounder to the right side.

With two outs, Kozak doubled, Gavin Jones singled and courtesy runner Lane McFail scored from third after Brown drew a two-out walk. The Boonville catcher apparently didn’t notice that McFail was coming down the third-base line, and he threw back to the pitcher. McFail scored easily for a 3-0 lead.

The Tigers threatened again in the second but came up empty because of a mistake on the basepaths.

Dalton Zaremba drew a leadoff walk, and McMullin reached on an error by the pitcher. Bradbury was hit by a pitch to load the bases, and the Pirates switched pitchers.

Chase Snapp came in and induced a pop-up to shallow center field. Zaremba took off from third as the high-hit ball began to descend, but second baseman Josh Judd made the catch and threw to third base where Riley Land tagged out Zaremba. Snapp struck out the next batter to end the inning.

The Pirates scored three unearned runs in the third to tie the score.

Judd and Francis singled, and Austin Hulbert bunted in front of the pitcher. Kozak pounced on the ball and threw to first in attempt to get the first out. However, his throw was off target. Judd and Francis scored, and Hulbert wound up at third with no outs. Sander’s fly out to left field tied the score, but Kozak settled down to retire the next two batters to end the threat.

In the fourth, McMullin reached on an error by the first baseman with one out. He stole second and raced to third on a wild pitch. Bradbury singled him home, and Hagedorn doubled to deep right field, scoring Bradbury all the way from first.

The Tigers scored an insurance run in the fifth. With two outs, Bullerd drew a walk, and courtesy runner McFail scored on a throwing error by the pitcher.

“It shows there’s a little character on the team to give up a three-run inning on an unfortunate play then come back off that and keep your composure and score three more,” Kindle said.

The Tigers (17-6) wrap up their regular season against Helias at 5 p.m. today in Jefferson City before facing Hickman in the first round of the Class 5, District 9 tournament at 3 p.m. Friday at Rock Bridge High School.