By Pat Dailey (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
CARTHAGE — Springfield Kickapoo pitcher David Senn was even a bit more methodical on the mound than usual Tuesday in the Chiefs’ Class 5 Sectional matchup with Carthage and with good reason.
“This mound was nothing like anywhere I’ve ever thrown before,” the junior southpaw said, referring to 77-year-old Carl Lewton Stadium. “The mound really drops off quick, instead of gradually going down like other mounds do. It was interesting making adjustments. As I saw where my pitches were going, I tried to make adjustments so I could throw strikes.”
The 6-foot-6 Senn was able to make himself right at home while striking out nine in Kickapoo’s 5-0 triumph over the Tigers. His six-inning effort sends the Chiefs (24-10) into the Quarterfinal round and a home date opposite Columbia Hickman (25-10).
Kickapoo and Cartage took two and a half hours to complete their clash, despite it being a 2-0 ball game entering the sixth inning. Senn was a big reason why, taking his own sweet time in between pitches until he felt the moment was right to release.
“We want people to get their money’s worth,” Kickapoo coach Jason Howser said. “David’s going to go at his speed and we’re going to let him, as long as he pitches like tonight.
“The beautiful thing about this sport is it’s the only team sport I know in which there is an elevated place on the field for one player and that’s the pitcher. That tells you who is in charge when the game is being played. He’s at his pace.”
Carthage hitters called timeout on a couple occasions, but mostly stood in the batter’s box with their bat held high or resting on their shoulders, as Senn stared in on them.
“It’s more to benefit myself. I don’t really know what it does to a hitter’s mind,” Senn said of his slow approach. “Slowing things down helps me keep my composure.”
“He has a great mound presence,” Howser added. “He’s very controlled and calm. That’s what we love about him.”
After Carthage’s Ian O’Malley and Kaden Carter stroked back-to-back singles in the first inning, Senn didn’t allow another hit until Carter singled in the sixth. Along the way, Senn retired six straight at one juncture. No Tiger reached third base against him.
Kickapoo’s hitters were having just as tough a time trying to solve Carthage pitcher Trason Vogt. The Chiefs managed just one hit through the first five innings.
Kolton Giefer gave Kickapoo a 1-0 lead with a first-inning RBI single that scored Garrett Reid, who was hit by a pitch.
Giefer swung and missed at Vogt’s first two offerings to fall behind 0-2 in the count, before delivering what proved to be the game-winning hit.
“He threw me a high fastball and I was just trying to get a piece of it and was able to line it up the middle,” Giefer said. “Without two strikes on me, I try to do some damage. With two strikes on me, I’m just trying to put the ball in play.”
“He shortened up with two strikes,” Howser said. “He was able to stay on the ball and lace it back up the middle. He did a good job making an adjustment to get us that first run and help everybody breathe a little easier.”
An error allowed Giefer to score, as well, and the Chiefs were quickly up 2-0.
That’s how it stayed until the sixth, as Vogt matched Senn. Vogt, a 5-foot-7 left-hander, retired eight straight batters while at his best.
“He’s a little competitor,” Carthage coach Mike Godfrey said. “He’s got a sneaky-fast fastball that gets in on guys and his breaking ball is really a good one.”
“He was throwing hard for how tall he is,” Giefer said. “He was finding his spots. He also had a good curve ball. He was tough to hit.”
“I’ve known him and have talked to him,” said Mason Auer, who singled and scored in the sixth. “I knew he was small, but knew he would be very good.”
Vogt was lifted after allowing a hit to Auer and hitting a batter in the sixth. A pair of Carthage errors also factored largely in Kickapoo plating three insurance runs in the inning.
The Tigers’ four errors led to four unearned runs.
“When we turned it around and got on the right track three weeks ago, that’s what we stopped doing,” Godfrey said. “It showed back up tonight.”
The Tigers (11-21), who started the season 4-16, loaded the bases with one out in the seventh. Auer came in from center field to close things out by recording the final two outs.
Auer, who singled and scored in the sixth, was conspicuous by absence on Kickapoo’s roster in the game program.
“That’s a pretty big one to leave off,” Howser said.
“I guess coach doesn’t like me very much and decided not to put me on there,” Auer added with a laugh.
Auer won’t be missing from much of the discussion leading up to Kickapoo’s showdown versus Hickman. The Missouri State signee will start on the mound for the Chiefs.
“It’s a great opportunity and means a lot to me,” Auer said. “Going to State is a big deal. I feel we have a chance to make it.”
Carthage 000 000 0 – 0 5 4
Kickapoo 200 003 x – 5 3 0
WP – Senn. LP – Vogt.