Error-free defense, and solid pitching and hitting has gotten the Rick Ball Ford Sedalia Juniors to a 41-7 record this summer and that’s what got them a 4-3 win against the Independence Indians on Saturday to win the AA Zone 2 Tournament and advance to the AA State Tournament in Jackson, Mo.
“It feels really good,” said Juniors catcher Christian Jones. “Once in a lifetime thing.”
The Juniors had defeated the Indians 5-2 the previous day and faced another challenging game Saturday.
The Juniors wasted no time getting on the scoreboard, bringing three runs across the plate in the first inning. The Indians answered in the top of the second inning with three runs themselves.
Baxter Mays reached second base to lead off the bottom of the first inning after the Indians’ left fielder dropped a fly ball. Mays ended up scoring from third base on Brice Pannier’s ground ball. The Indians threw home but Mays made it in safely.
Pannier later scored from third base when Chase Plymell’s fly ball dropped just in front of a diving right fielder. Jones’ bunt-single later loaded the bases with one out.Plymell scored on Derek Bivins’ groundout to make it 3-0 Juniors.
Two walks and two doubles allowed the Indians to tie it up at three apiece in the second inning, but the Juniors got what they needed in the third inning.
The Juniors used a single, a walk and an error to load the bases with two outs in the third inning. Gehrig Taylor reached on an infield single, which scored Luke Rincker and gave the Juniors a 4-3 lead.
The Juniors’ defense made the difference the rest of the way. Jones threw a strike to shortstop Gavin Jones at second base in the fourth inning to catch a runner stealing.
“I had an idea he was going and I knew the guy was fast,” Christian said. “I didn’t want to give the guy a hit so I told Jayce (Simoncic) to throw a curveball. He kept it low so he wouldn’t get a hit. Got lucky I guess.”
Simoncic got one of his five strikeouts to end the top of the fourth inning. He also walked five batters in six innings.
”I just had to come back and had to start throwing more strikes,” Simoncic said. “I had some trouble hitting my spots.”
The Indians got three one-out singles in the fifth inning, but Simoncic picked up a ground ball and threw to home plate for the force out. Braydon Phillips blasted a fly ball to deep right field, but Pannier chased it down and made the catch next to the wall to leave the bases loaded.
“Jayce battled out of some big time situations there and just kept plugging,” said Juniors coach Jeff Mays. “The defense has been taking care of us.”
Keegan Wilson reached on a dropped third strike in the sixth inning, but Christian didn’t allow him to stay there long.
“I saw the guy at first getting a good secondary lead,” Christian said. “On a 3-0 count he might be thinking the guy would get walked so he was falling asleep on me.”
Christian threw to Bivins, who was able to make the tag.
“He did phenomenal,” Simoncic said about Christian. “He really picked us up when we really needed help.”
Mays closed out the seventh inning, retiring the Indians in order.
The Juniors will travel about 280 miles to the AA State Tournament. Their first game is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Thursday.