By Dana Harding (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
Seymour, Mo. — Something’s up with Cinderella.
After notching a pair of postseason upsets, Seymour tried its hand at the heavyweight role during Wednesday’s Class 2 quarterfinal round.
Mission accomplished, as the Tigers rolled over Liberal 10-3 to advance to the program’s first-ever final four appearance.
Truman Hosiner and Scott Helms each drove in three runs on an afternoon that saw Seymour head coach Jason Duey going to the small-ball game early and often.
“We work on [bunting] a lot,” Duey said. “A lot of people are going away from bunting in the high school game. Other coaches feel that’s giving up an out, but I feel like it puts more pressure on the defense than have somebody that might strike out more often than be able to get a bunt down. As long as I’m coach, we’re going to work on bunting and we’re going to bunt.”
Early on, Liberal was determined to play the role of spoiler.
In the bottom of the first, Brandon Overman crushed a lead-off home run to give the Bulldogs a 1-0 advantage and crucial momentum.
After the initial shock, Seymour starter Carson Sturdefant was able to quickly steady his nerves and retire the next three batters to get out of the inning with minimal damage.
“As soon as he hit that, I knew it was gone,” Sturdefant said. “I kind of got down on myself, but then I thought, ‘No — let me just get my fielders some ground balls, and they’ll field it up.’ I felt pretty confident that we were going to go get some hits after that.”
Sturdefant’s premonition came through with a bullet, as Seymour erupted for four runs in the second inning to take a 4-1 lead and chase Liberal starter Weston Sprenkle.
Between innings, Duey challenged his team to write its own narrative and take control of the outcome.
“[Liberal] had a big boost at the start of the game,” Duey said. “And we just decided, ‘no, we’re not going to have that right now — we’re going to have a say about this game, and it’s not going to go like this.’”
After a Nathan Baker’s bunt single drove in Nathaniel Hosiner from third, Eric Helms connected on an RBI single score Baker. Two batters later, Truman Hosiner’s single drove in both Eric and Scott Helms.
Duey praised his team for not only surviving the initial punch, but deliver a few of its own in return.
“I’m very, very proud of Carson and the guys behind him that that didn’t turn into two runs or more,” Duey said. “More importantly, we come back and score four in the next inning. Earlier in the spring, they may not have done that. These boys have just done a 180 and decided, ‘OK, it’s one swing in a long ball game, and you know we’re going to have a say in this.’”
Seymour extended its lead with a Scott Helms RBI in the third inning, and then Duey and Seymour went back small ball with a vengeance in the fifth.
After back-to-back errors put Brock Pearce and Baker on the basepaths, the Tigers laid down three-straight bunts to not only move runners, but plate another pair of runs.
Scott Helms drove in Pearce from third on a bunt-squeeze single, and then Eric Helms scored Baker on another.
“It’s just one of the prettiest things, to me, whenever a kid gets a bunt down, and you score off it,” Duey said. “We did that two or three times in a row, and we’re like — let’s keep going! If it’s working, let’s keep doing it. We’ll do it again, and we’ll do it again.”
The Tigers added two more insurance runs in the sixth off an error and another Scott Helms RBI.
With a 9-1 lead and Sturdefant on cruise control, Seymour’s final six outs seemed a mere formality.
Unfortunately, Liberal had other plans.
A walk, single and error quickly loaded the bases in the bottom half of the sixth and opened the door for the Bulldogs.
An RBI from Colby Selvey and walk to Ethan Daniels with the bases still loaded trimmed the deficit to 9-3; however, Liberal was unable to do any further damage.
After Truman Hosiner’s RBI single in the top half of the seventh added a final insurance run for the Tigers, Sturdefant trotted back out in the bottom half to try and close out the game.
While he was able to retire the first two batters, Sturdefant was ultimately chased by his own pitch count.
Duey made a quick move to bring Pearce in to pitch from third base
The sophomore right-hander delivered, striking out his one and only batter to retire the side in order and secure the Seymour win.
“I’m not going to lie,” Pearce said. “I was very, very worked up, and I didn’t know exactly what to do, but Coach was, like, ‘I don’t want to see you throw one curveball — you’re going to pump fastballs,’ so I went up there with the confidence I had and got the job done.”
Following the game-ending strikeout, Pearce’s teammates rushed to the mound to celebrate.
Senior Brady Brooke talked about the team’s continued run through the postseason.
“I’ve dreamed of this since I was a little kid, and to be here and experience it with my teammates — it’s just unbelievable,” Brooke said. “For the first time in school history, I mean, we are making history. Words just can’t explain it right now.”
For Duey, it was all just a matter of buying in to a special season full of adversity, triumph and now a trip to the Class 2 final four.
“In life, a lot of it is believing you can do something,” Duey said. “If you don’t believe that you can do it, then it’s probably not going to happen. I won’t be naive and think every kid in that huddle thought that we were going to do something like this, but I know enough of them did — and here we are.”
Up next for Seymour is a semifinal matchup with Silex on Wednesday, May 29. The final four bracket will be played in O’Fallon, Mo.
Class 2 Quarterfinal: Seymour – 10, Liberal – 3
Seymour 0 4 1 0 2 2 1 — 10
Liberal 1 0 0 0 0 2 0 — 3
Hits: Seymour – 11, Liberal – 4
Errors: Seymour – 2, Liberal – 4
LOB: Seymour – 11, Liberal – 6
2B: Seymour (Carson Sturdefant), Liberal
HR: Liberal (Brandon Overman)
RBI: Seymour (Truman Hosiner – 3, Scott Helms – 3, Eric Helms – 2, Nathan Baker – 1), Liberal (Overman, Colby Selvey, Ethan Daniels)
Carson Sturdefant (6.67 IP, 8K, 4H, 3BB, 1HBP)
Brock Pearce (0.33 IP, 1K, 0H, 0BB)
Weston Sprenkle (1.67 IP, 0K, 3H, 3BB)
Colby Selvey (2.00 IP, 2K, 2H, 1BB, 1HBP)
Bryan Rojo (3.33 IP, 2K, 6H, 1BB, 1HBP)
Time of game: 2:20