By Dana Harding (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
Seymour, Mo. — Facing the prospect of three rounds in as many days, pitching depth is crucial for teams looking to survive a district tournament in the wake of recent MSHSAA pitch count regulations.
Then again, if Carson Sturdefant happens to be on your staff, pitch counts are somewhat irrelevant.
The Seymour starter tossed an absolute gem during Wednesday’s Class 2 District 5 championship with an 85-pitch complete game victory.
Sturdefant struck out seven and allowed only four hits, as the Tigers upset top-seeded Mansfield 4-2 to capture the program’s very first district title.
“Ever since I was a little kid, I always looked for that district,” Sturdefant said. “Even when I was a little elementary kid, I wanted that district and wanted to be the first to do it — I wanted to be that first team. I’ve been with these boys since I was in grade school, and I love them.”
From the opening pitch, Sturdefant’s control was dominant.
The junior right-hander went to a devastating curveball early and often to keep the potent Mansfield lineup off-balance.
Through five innings, Sturdefant retired the first 15 of 16 hitters faced.
Hunter Gray’s fourth-inning single with two outs represented Mansfield’s first hit and lone base runner up to that point.
“I was throwing that hook,” Sturdefant said. “With those top three hitters getting all-state and all-district for hitting, you’ve got to throw that curveball. You can’t let them touch it.”
Seymour head coach Jason Duey praised Sturdefant’s performance on the mound.
“Carson — he’s the type of kid that nothing’s too big for him,” Duey said. “I texted him last night and said, ‘you’re going to throw a great game,’ and he said, ‘darn right, coach, I got it.’ He went to the mound with that confidence, and it just showed all game. They’ve got a ton of great hitters, and he just didn’t back down.”
Not content to work just from the hill, Sturdefant helped his own cause in the fifth inning with a two-run home run to left center that broke open a scoreless game.
As he rounded third, an animated Sturdefant screamed at his teammates as they poured from the dugout.
“It felt good,” Sturdefant said. “I was sitting curveball, but he threw me that fastball, and I just wanted to take it yard.”
While Sturdefant’s blast put Seymour up early, an insurance run in the sixth proved to be just as vital.
Keaton Owens bunt single drove in Nathaniel Hosiner from third and turned out to be the Tigers’ winning run of the game.
Good thing, too, as Mansfield rallied in the sixth with a pair of runs to remain within striking distance.
Back-to-back RBI singles from Hunter Gray and Payton Watterson trimmed the Seymour lead to one run at 3-2; however, Hosiner’s RBI single in the seventh proved to be icing on the cake for the Tigers.
WIth his team up 4-2, Sturdefant returned to work a 1-2-3 inning in the bottom of the seventh to seal the victory and deliver Seymour’s elusive district title.
After the game, Duey reflected on the long journey to finally clear the district hurdle.
“It’s a long time coming,” Duey said. “This group has really woken this town up when it comes to baseball, and we’ve had a lot of good support over the last three or four years. This year didn’t quite go like we thought it might, but the ending couldn’t be better getting that first district for our school, for our town and for our community.”
Next up for Seymour is a sectional round matchup against District 6 champion Purdy on Monday, May 20, which the Tigers will host.
Class 2 District 5 Championship: Seymour – 4, Mansfield – 2
Seymour 0 0 0 0 2 1 1 — 4
Mansfield 0 0 0 0 0 2 0 — 2
Hits: Seymour – 8, Mansfield – 4
Errors: Seymour – 0, Mansfield – 1
LOB: Seymour – 8, Mansfield – 2
2B: Seymour (Nathaniel Hosiner – 1), Mansfield (Chase WIlson – 1)
HR: Seymour (Carson Sturdefant – 1)
RBI: Seymour (Sturdefant – 2, Hosiner – 1, Keaton Owens – 1), Mansfield (Hunter Gray – 1, Payton Watters – 1)
Carson Sturdefant (7.00 IP, 7K, 4H, 0BB)
Chase Wilson (5.00 IP, 4K, 6H, 1BB, 1HBP)
Hesston Gray (2.00 IP, 3K, 2H, 1BB)
Time of game: 1:49