The Sacred Heart Gremlins might not have repeated as Kaysinger Conference Baseball Tournament champions this year, but they still have their attention set on winning a district championship.
In their final two regular-season games, the Gremlins faced Class 2 No. 3 Summit Christian Academy and Class 1 No. 6 New Franklin.
A day after Summit Christian beat the Gremlins 7-0 in Lee’s Summit, the Class 1 Gremlins beat the Bulldogs 2-1 on Tuesday at Liberty Park Stadium thanks to aggressive baserunning and solid pitching by Cale Spangler.
“Our kids were enthusiastic,” Sacred Heart coach Steve Goodwin said. “Sometimes if you’re enthusiastic, you can beat somebody who’s maybe a little better than you are.”
Spangler allowed one run on five hits with eight strikeouts and seven walks in seven innings.
“I thought Cale battled. He worked his tail off today. He was really, really good,” Goodwin said. “The seniors (who regularly play at Centennial Park) wanted to win here in this stadium. We played a really good team. It was a really well played ballgame.”
Spangler’s counterpart, Tyler Hull, was almost as impressive. He yielded two runs — none earned — on five hits with seven strikeouts, one walk and one hit batsman in five innings.
The Gremlins’ first run scored with pure hustle. Caleb Morrison struck out to lead off the second inning but advanced to first base on a passed ball. He stole second, moved to third on Garrett Strange’s groundout to shortstop and stole home for a 1-0 lead.
Sacred Heart (11-4) stole eight bases and went first to third on a single in the fifth.
In the fifth, Blake Nichols reached base on an error and raced to third on Rock Curry’s single to right. Spangler’s two-out, run-scoring single to left broke a 1-all tie.
Curry finished 2 for 3 to lead Sacred Heart’s seven-hit attack.
The aggressiveness cost the Gremlins a couple of times.
Sacred Heart attempted a double steal in the third inning. Caleb Tanguay took off for second, but pitcher Hull caught the throw to second, and he threw to catcher Jacob Woodbury, who tagged out Curry at the plate.
Clint Spangler tripled off the wall in right field in the fourth but was caught in a rundown between third base and home plate.
New Franklin (10-4) scored its run in the top of the fifth.
Zach Purvis drew a leadoff walk and dashed from first to third on Tyler White’s single to right. Purvis scored on Alex Holem’s sacrifice fly to right field.
Cale Spangler used his curveball to get outs early in most innings. The only inning where the Bulldogs’ leadoff man reached base was the fifth.
New Franklin put together three two-out rallies, twice leaving the bases loaded and once leaving runners at first and second.
The Bulldogs threatened with two outs in the seventh. Spangler walked two batters before picking off the runner at second to end the game.
The Gremlins begin postseason play on Friday when the No. 3 seed hosts Sweet Springs in the first round of the Class 1, District 15 tournament.
District play won’t be any easier for the Gremlins, as two of the top four teams in the state reside in District 15. Top-ranked Santa Fe is the top seed, and fourth-ranked Concordia is No. 2.
“Now we’re going to get ready to play Sweet Springs and hope for the best,” Goodwin said. “We can field. If we pitch it and field it, we can play.”