The Class 2, District 12 tournament continued on Monday evening as the fourth seeded Crane Pirates hosted the top-seeded Miller Cardinals. In a game that was void of dull moments, the two teams would trade leads and momentum from start to finish, but ultimately the Pirates came out on top by a score of 6-5.
Miller jumped out in front in the first inning. Cardinal starting pitcher Boby Johnson made it through the top of the first allowing only one walk. Pirate starter Casey Smith appeared to be coasting through the bottom of the first in similar fashion until a two-out walk put Dalton Gulick aboard. David Hartley stepped to the plate next, and he blasted the first pitch he saw over the left field wall to make it 2-0 in favor of the Cardinals after one.
Smith was quick to help his team rebound as he singled to lead off the second inning. Three of the next five batters would follow his lead and the Pirates would take a 4-2 advantage.
Crane head coach Bryan Harmon never doubted that his team would battle back from the early deficit.
“I didn’t have to do or say anything to them because my kids don’t quit,” said Harmon. “We think of every game as prize fight, they gave the first blow, and then we had to deliver one and we came back with a four run inning.”
The Cardinals were down, but far from out of it. After a scoreless third inning by both teams, the Miller bats got hot again in the fourth. Dylan Hall led off the inning with a walk. Trey Hill then rebounded from a strikeout in his first plate appearance to stroke an RBI double. Hill would eventually cross the plate himself and the game was knotted at four after four innings.
Crane would strike again in the 5th inning as Jonah Walker would line a ball to the center field wall for a double. Ryan Gatton would strike next with a hit that would mark the end of the night for Boby Johnson. He was relieved by Dalton Gulick.
Coach Harmon recognized the importance of knocking Johnson out of the contest.
“They’ve got two great pitchers, and when we saw which one they were throwing it was our goal to get the other guy in there because when you get the second guy in there that means you’ve got to the first one,” said Harmon.
Gulick was able to get the Cardinals out of the inning, but not before Crane was able to plate two runs to take a 6-4 lead. Gulick was solid for the rest of the night, shutting out the Pirates while recording five strikeouts.
Pitching with his second lead of the night, Smith seemingly took his game to a different level for the remainder of the game. After a giving up a leadoff walk to Jordan Jack and throwing a wild pitch to allow him to advance to second, Smith struck out Dylan Hill and Tyler Douglas before getting Trey Hill to hit into the final out of the inning.
The Cardinals were able to plate one run off of two hits and an error in the sixth to make it a one run game, but couldn’t get anything going in the final inning. Smith struck out the final batter of the game as the Pirates completed the upset of the Cardinals.
Coach Harmon could hardly find the words to describe the importance of Casey’s performance.
“I can’t say enough about Casey,” said Harmon. “This is his first win of the year. We haven’t played well behind him. Not for a lack of him pitching well.”
Miller head coach Matt Walters recognized that his team made mistakes, but also knew that they were going up against a very talented opponent.
“It was a great game, they are a great team and they hit the ball well,” said Walters. “Our defense has really characterized us this season, when we score five runs we usually win the ballgame.”
The Cardinals will have to replace some very key players in order to repeat their run next year.
“We lose three very great seniors, Brock Johnson, Dalton Gulick and David Hartley,” said Walters. “They are going to be hard to replace, but we have about three or four players in each class coming up that should keep the program where it’s at and keep us contending.”
Miller finishes out the season with a record of 15-4.
With the win, Crane improves to 11-12 on the season.
“We have got to win a district championship to get to .500 tomorrow,” said Harmon.
The Pirates will take on the 10-11 Purdy Eagles in the title game on Tuesday afternoon at 5:30 at Crane.
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