An 11-6 loss to visiting Jeff City on June 13 was really a rough one for the Sedalia Bombers in retrospect.
Bombers head coach Craig McAndrews was tossed for arguing a play at the plate as the game unraveled in what turned out to be a five-run ninth inning. During the play, catcher Nick Hagedorn extended for the tag, but contact from the runner that he says didn’t seem so painful at the moment turned out to be a lot worse when he attempted to throw the ball back to the mound.
Hagedorn had tied the game with a two-run home run just an inning before, running his RBI total to 19, most on the team. Eleven days later, he doubled in one at-bat against Chillicothe, pushing his average to .548. It would be his last trip to the plate for the summer, though, with the harm from the aforementioned collision determined by an MRI to be a fracture.
Painful as losing one of the team’s best middle-of-the-order bats was, it was the first of many injuries to follow for the Bombers.
“It’s why I recruit a big roster,” McAndrews said before Wednesday’s game. “Everyone’s like, ‘Why do you get 17 hitters?’ Well, this is why. I think we’ve had nine injuries on the hitters’ side, and a couple pitchers, but like I’ve told them, it’s not an excuse, it’s next man up. We’re sitting at 14-10, and I think two games behind the leader with 14 games to go. I’m not panicking by any means, and while it’s hard to keep getting banged up over and over, we’ve got to keep punching back. At least we’re not 20 games under .500 [and getting injured], so we’ve still got a shot at the end.”
Already down shortstop Gavin Jones after he was drafted by Oakland, injuries have ravaged the infield. Third baseman Jake Lufft, who was hitting .385, is finished for the summer with a hamstring problem, and both shortstop Pittsburg State’s Tyson Cushman [bicep tendonitis] and Central Missouri’s Harrison Schnurbusch [labrum] are done, too. Behind the plate, the Bombers are without Hagedorn, along with Houston Parker, who McAndrews said he was counting on to provide both average and pop.
In the outfield, center fielder Tre Turner, who was hitting .285, played his last game on July 2 before returning to Louisiana. Luckily, right fielder Dalton Bealmer, who had been out for a week after popping his left shoulder out of place, has returned, and did so with aplomb, homering and driving in six runs in Tuesday night’s victory over the A’s.
“He’s pretty banged up, but finally back, and hopefully stays back,” McAndrews said of Bealmer, a JuCo All-American. “I told him if it keeps coming in and out of place we’re not going to play him, but he went and saw the trainer at our school and he got cleared.”
In total, it’s been four MINK League All-Stars shelved, but McAndrews hopes that four new ones will emerge. He called in a pair of California kids, shortstop Bradley Prebay and outfielder Justin Randle, both from Columbia College where McAndrews is an assistant coach. Another recent addition is Peyton Seiz, a pitcher-catcher from North Central Missouri College who’s headed to State Fair Community College this fall and could be needed behind the plate with all the losses there.
AJ Gardner hit a grand slam for his MINK League-leading ninth home run of the season and the bullpen came through with 4 1/3 innings of scoreless relief as the Bombers defeated Clarinda
Following days off Thursday and Friday, the Bombers will have a chance to build back some more momentum with games at home on four consecutive nights, beginning with Saturday’s against the Ozark Generals.
“If you can get hot at the end, that’s when it counts,” McAndrews said. “We just have to stay afloat now, start to get some more chemistry and get it rolling down the stretch.”