By Kai Raymer (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
As senior Braedon Aaron described it, the Glendale Falcons pulled off a comeback worthy of a Hollywood movie.
Down 3-0 against a future Division I pitcher, the Falcons remained patient.
A 3-0 deficit shrank to 3-2.
Down to their final three outs and finally facing Kickapoo’s bullpen, the Falcons used three walks and three singles to cap a late comeback against their-cross town rivals.
Glendale rallied for three runs in the top of the seventh inning to defeat Kickapoo, 5-3, on the Chiefs’ home field Tuesday.
“You can’t write a movie script better than that,” Aaron said. “It’s exactly what you wish for. You stay up late thinking about those walk-off or game-winning hits in late innings. It was everything we could’ve hoped for and we want to keep that energy going all season.”
The victory gives Glendale a leg-up in the conference title and district-seeding race. The Falcons are in a tough Class 5 District 10 field that includes Nixa (12-1 overall), Kickapoo and Ozark.
Glendale beat both Nixa and Ozark by 1-0 scores earlier this season.
Tuesday’s game had packed stands and engaged student sections on both sides.
“You can’t top this atmosphere – you have both fan sections cheering everybody on,” said Glendale senior Max Elmer. “It’s a great environment, everyone’s competing. It’s the definition of a Glendale-Kickapoo rivalry game.
Elmer tied the game in the seventh with an RBI single.
“I was just trying to hit the ball back up in the middle, looking for something to hit,” Elmer said. “He came with a fastball, 0-1, another fastball, 0-2, then I picked up the curveball and drove it through the right side and got the job done.”
Three batters later, Aaron gave the Falcons the lead, 4-3, with a bases-loaded single. He had struck out twice and walked in his previous three at-bats.
“I was thinking that I had to do something big,” Aaron said. “My team needed me. I had to push back. I was just thinking, ‘1-for-3.’ That’s what great batters, Hall of Fame batters, are made of. I went in there, cleared my mind and my first swing was on a fastball down the middle. I’ve always been a pull hitter, so I just pulled it and fortunately hit it hard enough to where the defense couldn’t handle it.”
The next batter, Josh Horsey, drew a bases-loaded walk to give the Falcons some insurance.
Glendale’s lineup was held in check early on by flame-throwing righthander Mason Auer.
With multiple scouts on hand and radar guns aplenty behind home plate, Auer threw five innings and struck out 11 while walking three.
The Missouri State commit allowed six hits, three of which came in his final inning.
Ty Wilmsmeyer’s RBI single and Elmer’s RBI double in the fifth inning brought Glendale within 3-2.
“It’s a testament to (our) guys: they’re hard-nosed and gritty and never-say-die,” said Glendale coach Jim Julian. “That’s what you got to have in baseball. You can’t run the clock out like you can in basketball or football. We just tried to stay at it, have good at-bats and hopefully we’d break through.
“We just tried to tell (the players), leading up to the game and throughout the game, that it’s a long game and anything can happen. We focused on staying in the game and not getting frustrated at a 3-0 deficit.”
Julian recently moved Elmer, a Drury commit, to the 3-hole in Glendale’s lineup.
“He’s a hard fighter, whether it’s two strikes or whatever the situation is,” Julian said. “He’s got a lot more pop, I think, than some people give him credit for. He’s barreled up a lot of balls this season.”
Kickapoo plated two in the bottom of the second. Jacob Murrell had an RBI single and the Chiefs scored another run on a Falcons fielding error.
Easton Bentch’s sac-fly RBI in the fourth pushed Kickapoo’s lead to 3-0.
Glendale’s starting pitcher, Wilmsmeyer, threw 6 and 1/3 innings.
The Falcons face Fayetteville (Ark.) and potential sectionals opponent Willard on Thursday and Friday, respectively, at U.S. Ballpark in Ozark.
Kickapoo also plays Willard on Friday (3:30 p.m.) at U.S. Ballpark.
“Anytime you get to play Kickapoo, especially when it’s your senior year, it’s just so hyped,” Aaron said. “We hyped it up at school and told everyone to come out. We know Kickapoo’s a good team and hopefully we’ll be able to see them again in districts because it would be a great opportunity to play them again.”