Sunday, May 7, 2017

NEN Bluejays Send Off Mustangs in Five; Clinch Fourth Straight Title as Platte Valley Falls

The dominos began to fall the night before for Northeast as Platte Valley, the one team besides North Nodaway who could catch them, fell 15-13 at the hands of East Atchison. That was their fourth conference loss of the year, putting them out of the running. Then, Northeast won in surprisingly easy fashion, 11-0 over North Nodaway in five innings after having lost to them early in the year.

North Nodaway had been in control of their own destiny for the 275 conference title until two weeks ago, when they dropped a 23-13 shellacking to West Nodaway and were swept by Platte Valley. They had a whole week to lick their wounds. Coach Jake Shipman, desperate to save North Nodaway’s fading chances at a title, sent Peyton Coleman against Northeast, but it was death by 1,000 cuts in Ravenwood Friday.

Spencer Weir took the mound for Northeast to try to close it, and got Dakota Smyser to ground out, overpowered Dalton Smyser for a strikeout, and got Peyton Coleman to hit a weak grounder back to the mound. It was clear it was going to be Northeast’s day in the bottom of the first. First, Peyton Coleman tried to overpower Spencer Weir, but he whistled one past short for a base hit. Then, he fooled Chet Spire completely with a pitch up and in, but Spire’s check swing dropped in behind first for another base hit. Then, Andrew Freemyer beat out a close play from short despite squawking from the Mustang dugout to load the bases.

Then, the bottom fell out as Coleman began fighting the strike zone. It didn’t matter whether he was throwing his fastball or his breaking ball; Northeast’s batters were recognizing it and hitting it. He tried a knuckleball on Rowdy West, only to plunk him and force in a run. He got Ethan Adwell down in the count at 0-2, only for the Bluejay freshman to battle back and draw a walk on a pitch up and in, forcing in Northeast’s second run. He finally struck out Brayden Welch after Welch had fought back from 1-2 to 3-2, only for another freshman, Spencer Gray, to hit a shot off the mound and into left center to bring in two more. Mustang centerfielder Dakota Smyser shot down Ethan Adwell trying to go first to third on the play, but Northeast had jumped in front 4-0 without benefit of an extra base hit.

It got worse in the second after Spencer Weir struck out the side in the top of the inning. Northeast scored five more in the inning, again without benefit of an extra base hit. Northeast’s #9 batter, Reed McIntyre, was up to the plate, but the freshman shot one into right center for a base hit to lead off and stole second. Spencer Weir reached on an error when third baseman Logan Keho bobbled a ball, and Chet Spire walked to load the bases. Pressing and trying to make something happen, catcher Tyler Bix tried to pick McIntyre off third; Reed had gotten much more aggressive on the base paths over the course of the year. Bix threw it away and another run scored. Andrew Freemyer hit a shot off Keho’s glove; he had no play and everybody was safe.

A defensive conference didn’t make anything better as Rowdy West grounded to Arron Coleman at short. Coleman forced Chet Spire at third, but Weir scored on the play. Ethan Adwell beat out Arron Coleman’s throw to load the bases, Brayden Welch walked to force in a run, Spencer Gray singled to left to score another, and Chance Barber walked to force in another. The game might have ended in the top of the third the way Northeast was hitting, but Reed McIntyre’s screamer, which looked like it was headed for extra bases, was snagged by Austin Bird in right. Bird’s rocket arm came in handy for North Nodaway as he threw a strike to Makayla Cross at second to double off Spencer Gray to end the second with North Nodaway down 9-0.

Even when Northeast Nodaway got sloppy in the third, North Nodaway couldn’t do anything. Logan Keho reached on a throwing error when Rowdy West’s throw was wide of first. Garrett Torres hit the ball hard, but right at third baseman Ethan Adwell, who forced Keho at second. Austin Bird, running for Torres, got a big leadoff and was rewarded when NEN catcher Andrew Freemyer’s errant throw got away and he went to third.  Makayla Cross walked, and it looked like a big inning was in store with Dakota Smyser and the heart of the order coming up. Smyser hit a screamer to center that looked like it was headed out, but centerfielder Dylan Mildfeldt robbed Smyser of a three run homer, and Bird, who thought the ball was going over, couldn’t get back in time to tag up and score.  Once again, North Nodaway tried to make something happen and set up a possible double steal, but Makayla Cross was erased stealing and the shutout was intact.

Northeast continued to add to their lead. In the third, Andrew Freemyer hit a blast to dead center that cleared for a home run. Ethan Adwell’s adventures on the basepaths continued in the fourth, but this time he was fortunate. He led off by whistling a single past Cross at second, went to second on a wild pitch, and took third on Brayden Welch’s squib in front of the plate.

That brought up Spencer Gray, and his grounder to Keho at third caught Adwell off between third and home. But North Nodaway botched up the rundown and Adwell came home to make it 11-0.
Once again, it looked like a possible big inning for North Nodaway in the fifth as Spencer Weir tired and Arron Coleman singled and Ryan Riley walked. That finished Weir, who went to short as Rowdy West came in to pitch. Logan Keho struck out, but Garrett Torres reached on a scratch hit as his roller went into no-man’s land between third and short to load the bases. Makayla Cross struck out, but Dakota Smyser and the heart of the North Nodaway lineup was coming up.

Smyser hit a laser shot that looked like it was headed for extra bases and three runs. Northeast’s lead was not safe by any means; North Nodaway nearly wiped out a 20-1 West Nodaway lead by scoring 12 in the fifth to make it 20-13 before West Nodaway scored three in the bottom of the inning to win it. They also nearly wiped out a 9-5 Platte Valley lead in Hopkins as well before losing 9-8. But somehow, Spencer Weir, with runner Ryan Riley cutting right in front of him, managed to keep his eye on the ball and snag it for the third out, ending the threat. It was the second time that Dakota Smyser had been robbed of a big hit for North Nodaway, costing them at least six runs in the process. It was that kind of night for the Mustangs.

No comments: