By Tyler Thompson (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
SPRINGFIELD — The Glendale Falcons (20-7) entered the Class 5 District 10 baseball tournament at Parkview High School as the No. 1 seed.
Fielding a stout senior hurler in Ty Wilmsmeyer — combined with a stingy defense and timely hitting by senior Thomas Brand (two RBI) — balanced out the equation en route to the win.
And all three variables were front and center Monday evening as the Falcons defeated the Ozark Tigers, 2-0 — advancing to Tuesday’s showdown with the No. 2 seed — the Nixa Eagles — for the district championship.
Wilmsmeyer — whose knee-buckling curveball complements his in-and-out fastball and changeup — hurled the complete-game shutout, allowing three hits to the Tigers.
Wilmsmeyer carries that ace — or bulldog mentality — with him no matter if it’s the season opener or a district semifinals tilt.
“It is certainly an emotional game, knowing it is going to be the last game of the season for one of these teams,” Wilmsmeyer said. “Ozark (16-13) is a very good team with a very good lineup, both offensively and defensively. It is a game where you have to play with a little bit of fire and energy. Tom came through huge today, had a couple of knocks and two RBI. Overall, it really was a good team win. I am happy for our team.”
If the Falcons were apprehensive or fighting some butterflies as the No. 1 seed, it certainly wasn’t visible during pregame warm-ups.
While some may buckle under the pressure, the Falcons operate with the same aura their skipper, Jim Julian, brings to the diamond: cautious optimism.
“There is a fine line between goofing around and not being focused, and being loose and being focused. Today, we had that good mix. We were playing loose and having fun playing baseball. That is when we play good baseball. It was a pretty fun game for us,” Wilmsmeyer said.
Wilmsmeyer allowed one hit in the first inning on a curveball up in the zone, a double in the fourth before stranding a runner at third base, and an infield single in the fifth.
“I faced them earlier in the year. I know a couple of guys over there. It is fun playing against your friends. Any of them can do damage at any point in the game. It is good to make sure I get ahead of hitters and stay in control of the game,” Wilmsmeyer said.
While Wilmsmeyer and Brand made the highlight reel, the defensive players backing up the hurler once again played with reckless abandon for their bodies.
With one out in the sixth, a screamer ricocheted off the mound, trickling its way to Max Elmer at second base — who corralled the ball and threw across his body for the bang-bang out at first.
As Ozark looked for any sort of offense, the Tigers thought they found it one batter later as Carson Shaver sent a line drive down the third-base line, only to be hauled in by Jack Hamlin.
The strong play on the diamond by his counterparts never goes unnoticed, Wilmsmeyer said.
“Yeah, our defense has been awesome all year. And today was no exception,” he said. “Max had a couple of good plays at second, and the outfielders did good at getting behind the ball. The ball was carrying out today, and Tom had those huge knocks. Without those, it is tough to win ballgames if you don’t score runs. I am very proud where we’ve been and cannot wait for tomorrow.”
As for Brand — whether it was against Nixa, Lebanon, or tonight against Ozark — the senior has a knack for setting the offensive tone.
The Falcons have a way of closing out the close games, and Brand is a nice asset to have in the box, as he displays patience and overall plate discipline: rarely giving away an at-bat to the opposition.
Brand, though, deflected the attention.
“I think it has been our pitching and defense,” Brand said of his team’s ability to close out the close games. “Our offense, sometimes, can’t come through and score a lot of runs, which is unfortunate. Our pitching, like Ty — [he] threw an absolutely fantastic game. And our defense is really good.”
Brand displayed the aforementioned plate discipline during his first at-bat.
“There were two outs, and I was just trying to keep the ball in play — to keep the line moving,” Brand said. “I just got a nice fastball down the middle. I did what I could with it.”
Given the fastball that didn’t fool Brand, Ozark hurler Dylan Frandsen mixed up the arsenal during Brand’s at-bat in the third.
Said Brand: “After the first at-bat, he came with a couple of curveballs. I was ready for that second one.”
Glendale plays Nixa Tuesday evening at 6 p.m. for the district championship.