By Dana Harding (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
Urbana, MO — As hot as Morrisville has been this postseason, the Panthers finally ran into a team (and pitcher) burning a few extra degrees.
After finishing with a record of 6-14, Morrisville caught fire in the District 13 tournament, upsetting No. 2 Lockwood and No. 1 Liberal en route to a second-straight district title.
While the Panthers were able to score early and often throughout the district rounds, Skyline wasn’t nearly as accommodating.
In the sectional round, it was the Tigers who jumped out to an early lead.
Heading into the sixth inning with a 5-3 advantage, Skyline turned to closer Brant Gideon to secure the victory.
The senior right-hander was electric, striking out seven of the eight batters faced in the final two innings of work to preserve a 6-3 Tiger victory and Class 2 quarterfinal berth.
“I’m just very excited that my team and coach trust me,” Gideon said. “It’s a great opportunity with my last home game as a senior, and I just wanted to do my job and let my defense work behind me.”
With a pitch arsenal featuring both high velocity and significant movement, Gideon posed almost as many problems for Skyline catcher Dax Beem as he did Morrisville’s dangerous lineup of hitters. Two batters reached base on dropped third strikes that got away, and Gideon’s final out was on a dropped strike that Beem collected and fired to first.
Despite the rash of pitches finding the dirt, Gideon and Beem kept calm throughout the process and kept retiring Panther batters.
Skyline head coach Brett Bybee praised his sophomore catcher for continued improvement in handling Skyline’s challenging pitching staff.
“We’ve got guys that have some movement and, sometimes, they get away,” Bybee said. “I will give [Beem] a ton of credit. Over the year, he has blocked the ball so much better than last year. He’s put in a ton of work, and that’s made our pitchers better.”
While Gideon and starter Mason Lile worked to keep the Morrisville hitters off balance, Skyline proved to be just as effective at the plate.
Paden Hodges ripped a pair of doubles, scored twice and drove in Skyline’s first run of the game in the second inning.
Hodges talked about needing early runs against Morrisville’s potent duo of Hadden Grant and Dominic Canovi.
“It was very important to get that early lead, because they have two really outstanding players” Hodges said. “We came in as a team today, and we put them away early.”
Canovi kept the Panthers in the hunt with a two-run single in the third inning. The senior center fielder finished with a trio of hits and a run scored on teammate Dylan Blehm’s fifth-inning single.
Skyline’s Lile scattered eight hits on the afternoon during his five innings of work. While Lile yielded a trio of runs, the senior right-hander limited the damage, for the most part, stranding eight Morrisville runners on the afternoon.
“[Lile] did a great job for us,” Bybee said. “He’s a workhorse that throws a lot of strikes. I know, here late in the year, those strike zones can sometimes get a little smaller, and I wanted to put him up there to throw a lot of strikes. He did a nice job in a pressure situation and a big game.”
While the loss ends Morrisville’s postseason run, head coach Justin Crumpley praised his team for its postseason resiliency.
“We fought and battled extremely well,” Crumpley said. “I thought [Grant] just worked his butt off, all day long, to keep us in the ball game, and we battled from the first pitch until the last. They just played a little bit better than us.”
Morrisville ends its season at 9-15.
Up next for Skyline (24-5) is a quarterfinal matchup at Lincoln on Wednesday, May 23.
Class 2 Sectional Final: Skyline – 6, Morrisville – 3
Skyline 0 2 1 1 1 0 1 — 6
Morrisville 0 0 2 0 1 0 0 — 3
Hits: Morrisville – 8, Skyline – 7
Errors: Morrisville – 3, Skyline – 0
LOB: Morrisville – 8, Skyline – 2
Hadden Grant (7.00 IP, 9K, 7H, 2BB)
Mason Lile (5.00 IP, 6K, 8H, 1BB)
Brant Gideon (2.00 IP, 7K, 0H, 0BB)
Time of game: 1:47