By Jordan Burton (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
After seeing a 7-2 advantage quickly shrink to a two-run, 7-5 lead in the top of the 4th inning, Webb City Coach Gary Highfill wasn’t as nervous as many coaches would’ve been.
He has a dude in righty Alex Bass.
The Washburn signee entered the game with the bases loaded and two outs before promptly forcing a groundout.
He retired the first five batters he faced, allowing zero runs in 2.1 innings of work, helping Webb City claim the Class 5 – District 11 championship Tuesday evening at Joplin High School by a 15-5 margin.
“Alex is a guy that we count on in a pinch. That situation was perfect for him,” said Highfill. “I had all the faith in the world that he was going to come in and get us out of that jam. He then came back and gave us more good innings.”
Bass, who appeared in relief of Cole Gayman, also received help from his offense in the form of eight runs in less than three innings.
That includes a seven-run fifth inning.
Webb City (17-11) exploded for 13 hits, with Trahgan Parker and Manual Peskar tallying three each. Junior Cale McCallister drove in a game-high three runs.
But, maybe the most pivotal part of the game were miscues by Carthage’s defense — nine errors in total did the Tigers no favors.
“Every time we made a run we shot ourselves in the foot,” said Carthage coach Mike Godfrey. ”We played very poorly on defense and it was everyone. I don’t know what to attribute that to, if it was nerves or trying too hard, but we don’t feel good about that. Credit Webb City for putting the ball in play and swinging the bats.”
Ian O’Malley went four innings for Carthage (16-10), unable to overcome defensive errors. Junior Kale Schrader also turned three hits into a pair of RBIs. He also relieved O’Malley on the mound.
For Godfrey, what he’ll remember about this season isn’t how it ended, but the ride his seniors were able to take him on, which includes a district semifinal upset of No. 2 Joplin.
“What I’ll remember most about this team is that we had great senior leadership,” said Godfrey. “We had guys that competed, worked their tails off, prepared and did things the right way. They set a tone and an example. I love those guys.
“I told them to hold their heads high. Remember their teammates and hold on to those things.”
The win marked the second of the season for Webb City over Carthage, with both ending in run-rule fashion thanks to 30 combined runs.
The Cardinals have now won seven of their last nine games and are playing their best baseball of the season after a less than ideal start to the season.
Now, all focus turns to next Tuesday’s tilt with the District 12 winner, which will present either state power Lee’s Summit West, or 26-6 COC rival Willard – Highfill’s former program.
“We started the season off rough at 0-4 and we had some adversity, but I told the guys that we’re building towards this moment right here,” said Highfill. “They did everything we asked them to do this year and really showed up tonight and competed.
“There’s not a lot of teams left in the state after today. It’s always great to be one of those teams and have the chance to compete one more day. We have a great group of seniors that I’m not ready to be done with. I want those guys to have another chance to win.”
Webb City advances to next week’s Sectional matchup on May 21 with the game time and location TBA.