The Sacred Heart Gremlins needed a fast start against the No. 2 ranked team in Class 1, the Concordia Orioles.
And did they ever!
The Gremlins scored three runs in the second inning and five in the third Monday night and defeated the Orioles 8-4 in the District 15 baseball tournament at Centennial Park.
“It was huge, I mean, especially against a great team like that,” Cale Spangler said of the team’s early lead. “You’re not going to beat them unless you jump out early.”
The road to a district championship won’t get any easier, though. The Gremlins (13-4) will take on top-ranked Santa Fe in the title game at 6 p.m. Wednesday.
Santa Fe beat Lone Jack 5-2 in Monday’s other semifinal.
Sacred Heart, who was the visitor on the scoreboard, began their second-inning rally on Clint Spangler’s one-out double to the fence in right field. Caleb Morrison singled Spangler home and took second base on the throw to the plate.
Mason Kelchner followed with a run-scoring single to left field, and he scored on Blake Nichols’ two-out single to left.
The outburst sent Concordia to the bullpen in the third inning. Starter Collin Werths was charged with the loss, allowing three runs on five hits with one strikeout and one walk in two innings.
Reliever Austin Hon didn’t fare any better because his defense committed three errors in the third inning.
Rock Curry, who went 3 for 4, and Caleb Tanguay, who had two hits in four at-bats, hit back-to-back singles to open the inning. Both runners scored on an error by the shortstop.
“We wanted to put the ball in play hard. I thought we did that,” Sacred Heart coach Steve Goodwin said. “We were aggressive running the bases. Big hits.”
After Cale Spangler was caught stealing at third for the first out, Clint Spangler, who went 2 for 4 with a double, and Morrison, who finished 2 for 3, hit consecutive singles, and Kelchner was hit by a pitch. Spangler scored on an errant pickoff throw by the catcher, and Garrett Strange completed the scoring with a two-run double to left field.
The Orioles temporarily changed the momentum in the bottom of the third, scoring three runs on a three-run homer by Cory Meineka.
Cale Spangler encountered trouble in each of the last four innings but only permitted one run.
“Even with that lead, I wasn’t comfortable,” Cale Spangler said. “I knew this team’s going to hit you. This team gets on base well. They have great batting eyes, and, I mean, you can never put this team away. You have to fight to beat that team.”
Two Orioles reached in the fourth with two outs, but Spangler struck out Truman Reith to end the threat.
Concordia loaded the bases with one out in the fifth, but Spangler induced a flyout to left field and struck out Cass Heimsoth.
The Orioles again loaded the bases in the sixth, but Spangler recorded two strikeouts and retired Meineka on a nice running catch by right fielder Blake Nichols.
“Great play in the outfield with runners in scoring position,” Goodwin said. “Great play and great hustle.”
The first three Concordia batters reached in the seventh inning. Hayden Brown drew a leadoff walk, took third on Cale Brunkhorst’s double to left field and scored on Heimsoth’s double to left.
Spangler shut the Orioles down again. He struck out the next two batters and retired Reith on a groundout to second to end the game.
Spangler, the winning pitcher, yielded four runs on seven hits with 10 strikeouts, one walk and two hit batsmen in seven innings.
Werths led the Orioles, going 3 for 4 with one run scored. Hon had two hits as Concordia’s season ended with a 14-5 record.