A lot of familiar faces will greet the Sedalia Travelers in the district tournament beginning on Friday at Dey Field at Liberty Park Stadium. The Travelers will vie for a district title with the likes of Rod’s Sports Blue Springs, Oak Grove, Blue Springs Fike and Hi-Boy, all teams they have seen many times this summer.
“It makes me more comfortable calling pitches, and we know the pitchers we’re going to see,” said Sedalia catcher Zach Bishop. “It gives us a little confidence at the plate.”
The Travelers (27-20) head into district play on a high note, having swept the final doubleheader of the regular season on Monday, beating St. Joseph 6-3 and 3-1.
Since closing the regular season, the team spent a couple of days on light hitting before getting into the cages and doing infield work on Thursday.
“We all know it’s a big tournament,” said pitcher Lane Soendker. “We all want to move on, so we’re just keeping our bodies healthy, staying in shape and getting these practices in just to stay in the flow of things.”
Manager Mark Carey picked Soendker to start Friday’s game against Hi-Boy, a team the Travelers swept in Independence and beat at the Sedalia-Warrensburg Tournament in five innings. The last time the teams met, Soendker threw a complete game, allowing one run on five hits while striking out four.
“We know what to expect, but come tournament time they can flip a switch and become almost a different team,” Soendker said.
Carey also expects a different Hi-Boy team to come into Liberty Park.
“This is district play,” Carey said. “That’s what everybody knows on our team. You get teams that come in here that are mediocre, .500 teams that sometimes win the thing. Everybody is capable.”
The games in the tournament will be nine innings instead of the seven the team has been playing. This could mean more pitching decisions for the manager.
“It’s all going to depend on when Soendker gets fatigued,” Carey said. “We do have some long relief guys and we have guys to get it to (closer) Austin Bullerd. Hopefully he can give us a good five or six and then we can get to Caleb Tanguay for one or two.”
Win or lose today, Carey has Dalton Christian slotted to pitch the first game on Saturday.
“He’s our No. 1, hands down,” Carey said. “If we beat Hi-Boy, he’s the only guy we’ve got that can beat Rod’s ace. If not, who else would I want on the mound with the season on the line?”
Beyond Soendker and Christian, the team has several excellent pitchers who have been a big part of the success since early in the year.
“They all have three pitches they can throw for a strike, and they all have confidence and they all trust our defense so they can go up there and pitch to their fullest,” Bishop said.
Carey expects the field at Liberty Park to play fast, which could benefit hitters.
“It’s going to play like a major league style ball field,” Carey said. “Base hits over the shortstop and second basemen are going to be to the gap. It’s going to be fun to watch.”
The Travelers and Hi-Boy open the tournament at 5 p.m. Friday. The winner will advance to face Rod’s Sports at 10 a.m. Saturday, while the loser falls to the loser’s bracket to face either Fike or Oak Grove at 1 p.m. Saturday.
“I’m expecting real good things,” Bishop said. “We’ve got a lot of guys that work hard and we have a real good pitching staff along with a lot of bats behind it.”
DISTRICT 5 TOURNAMENT: Travelers vs. Hi-Boy
5 p.m. Friday at Liberty Park Stadium