By Dana Harding
Adrian’s six-run sixth ends Morrisville’s playoff run
Morrisville — Ten more feet.
Monday’s Class 2 sectional matchup between Morrisville’s Marion C. Early and Adrian, an 11-10 nail-biting victory for the Blackhawks, was ever so close to a storybook ending for the Southwest Missouri squad.
Ten more feet and the Panthers answer a wild, Adrian rally in the sixth inning with one of their own.
Ten more feet and the Morrisville faithful are digging in for the bottom half of the inning and a chance to finally close out the Blackhawks for good.
Ten more feet and Gavin Lombas has a 3-run home run over the center field wall, instead of a game-ending catch at the fence by Adrian’s Hunter Wilson.
Wilson’s grab capped a thrilling game chock-full of big innings and bigger momentum swings.
The Blackhawk senior outfielder also turned in a monster afternoon at the plate, going 3-4 with 3 RBIs.
“Just an intense game,” Morrisville head coach Justin Crumpley said. “Every pitch. You could feel the pressure on every pitch, and you’ve got to tip your hats to [Adrian]. They handled it a little better than us.”
Morrisville struck first with its first five hitters all crossing home plate to give the Panthers an early 5-0 lead.
A two-run double by Dominic Canovi highlighted the first-inning fireworks show.
Unfortunately for the Panthers, Adrian wasn’t ready to call it an afternoon.
The Blackhawks plated their first three hitters in the second inning en route to a four-run rally.
While the scoreboard operator received a bit of respite over the next couple innings, Morrisville was back at it in the fifth with a four-run inning of its own to stretch its lead back to a comfortable margin at 9-5.
Comfortable, at least, until the wheels started to fall off.
Morrisville’s reliable battery of arms began to labor as the game wore on, and control around the plate became a critical factor.
The Panther hurlers issued a total of ten walks in the game, eight of which occurred in the final two innings.
The inability to get outs, specifically the final out in the sixth, proved to be Morrisville’s undoing.
Adrian head coach Caleb Nolan attributed the Blackhawks’ first sectional win in school history to a disciplined approach at the plate.
“We’re patient at the plate,” Nolan said. “We’re going to take our walks, put the ball in play and that’s how we come back and win baseball games.”
Adrian’s sixth-inning surge put the District 14 champions up for the first time in the contest at 11-9.
Despite the stunning momentum swing, Morrisville battled back in the seventh.
With two outs in the inning, Braden Grant crushed a ball over the centerfield fence to cut the lead to a single run and give the Panthers hope.
Hadden Grant reached on a walk, and moved to third on a Luke Lower single and a stolen base.
With both runners in scoring position, the stage was set for the heart of Morrisville’s lineup.
A stage that needed ten more feet.
While the postseason run ended, Crumpley praised his team for fighting until the very end.
“I’m pretty proud of my guys,” Crumpley said. “It would have been very easy for them to come out and lay down that last inning. Especially after that first out put more pressure on us. We showed a lot of character; we showed a lot of guts.”
During a lengthy meeting in the outfield, Crumpley offered some final words of encouragement for the Panthers (10-13).
“I told those seniors the sun’s going to come up tomorrow,” Crumpley said. “Eventually, they’re not going to remember this. They’re going to remember the good times. They’re going to remember that district championship. They’re going to come back here, watch baseball games and see that year under the district championship board and know that was their year.”
Varsity Final: Adrian – 11, Morrisville – 10
Morrisville 5 0 0 0 4 0 1 — 10
Adrian 0 4 0 0 1 6 x — 11
Hits: Morrisville – 13, Adrian – 9
Errors: Morrisville – 5, Adrian – 2
LOB: Morrisville – 8, Adrian – 11
Time of game: 2:00