By Tyler Thompson (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
SPRINGFIELD — The chips had fallen the way the Glendale Falcons (18-7, 8-0) had hoped.
A home game against the Lebanon Yellowjackets (15-8, 7-2) for the Ozark Conference championship was a nice narrative for the Falcons to write.
So, with senior hurler and Mizzou commit (outfielder) Ty Wilmsmeyer on the bump, the Falcons orchestrated just enough offense to capture the aforementioned championship, 2-0, Tuesday evening at Glendale.
This season marks year two in the blue and red for Glendale skipper Jim Julian, whose Falcons will be the No. 1 seed in next week’s Class 5 District 10 tournament at Parkview High School.
However, Julian saw his Falcons fall on the wrong end of a landslide earlier this spring, when Lebanon bested his Falcons 11-0 at the March 23 Willard Lead-Off Tournament.
For Julian and his Falcons, the loss was one of a prosperous nature.
“From a team standpoint, it is a big win for us. Kind of rebounding from what they [Lebanon] did to us earlier in the year,” Julian said. “They just jumped all over us and took it away. This was a big win, especially this time of year. You want to get better as you move on. It is always good to jump out to a lead, especially with Ty on the mound.”
As for the 16th conference championship in the program history, the proof is in the pudding when it comes to Julian’s team.
“Conference championship means a lot,” Julian said. “Any time you are in the running for a championship, whether it be a conference championship or a district championship or any kind of championship, you have done good things throughout the year. The conference championship means your body of work against conference opponents has been pretty good, so that means a lot to us.”
The Falcons wasted little time at the plate — jumping on the early fastball and putting the pressure on the opposition.
Thomas Brand’s RBI double in the bottom of the second inning opened the scoring, with the final run coming two frames later via an infield error — one of two committed by the visitors.
“We had a couple of chances there with runners in scoring position and just couldn’t get a hit when we needed to, but that is baseball. Give them [Lebanon] credit.”
Since the Falcons were throwing their best in Wilmsmeyer, the Yellowjackets followed suit, as junior Troy Reynolds did all he could to keep his team in the heart of the matter — allowing two runs in his six innings of work.
“Proud of our effort. Glad we had those opportunities,” Julian said. “The guys stayed after it and didn’t get frustrated.”
Lebanon exited Donald L. Provance Field with one more hit than the Falcons (6-5), but solid defense up the middle and speed on the base paths proved to swing — and sustain — the momentum for the duration.
“The guys just kept the same approach,” Julian said of the offense.
As for Wilmsmeyer, getting ahead with his curveball while painting the black with his heater kept the senior in the driver’s seat all night long.
“Ty did a great job on the mound. A typical Ty game; throws a lot of strikes and moves the ball around,” Julian said. “Just being a pitcher instead of a thrower. He did a great job as a competitor out there. He may not show it on the outside, but he has a fiery competitiveness about him.”
Wilmsmeyer — whose curveball pounded the zone from all directions — finished the night with seven strikeouts in as many innings en route to the shutout win.
“Early in the count, it is definitely a get-me-over; a way to get ahead of hitters,” Wilmsmeyer said of the deuce. “If I get deeper into counts, if I can locate it, I can use it as a strikeout pitch if I go down and in to them, or away on them. It can work either way.”
Wilmsmeyer has a luxury many hurlers in southwest Missouri don’t possess — an offense that can strike at any juncture.
“That certainly helps when your offense can come through early in the game,” Wilmsmeyer said. “It makes me throw more strikes, get ahead of hitters, and know that I have a lead and can pitch with confidence.”
While the lineup has deviated a bit from the late-March lineup, depth is not a concern for the 2019 Ozark Conference champions.
Added Julian: “Early in the year, you have a lineup that you are going to start opening day with, and that always evolves — the ebbs and flows of the season. We have had kind of a steady lineup, but the good thing about these guys is that we have some pieces to fill holes. Competitiveness for a team is a good thing.”
Julian didn’t mince words when addressing the postseason in Class 5 District 10 — which is home to host Parkview, Ozark, Kickapoo, Branson, West Plains, Glendale, and Nixa.
“I think it is one of the toughest in the state, top to bottom,” Julian said. “We’ve got a couple of conference schools in there that are a couple of the lower seeds, but somebody is going to have their hands full with them. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if they [lower seeds] advance.”
Glendale has a first-round bye and will play the Branson-Ozark winner at 4 p.m. Monday at Parkview.
The top four seeds are Glendale, Nixa, Ozark, and Kickapoo.
“It is going to be a dogfight in this district,” Julian said. “It is exciting. It is going to be a fun time. Hopefully, we survive and advance.”