Saturday, May 27, 2017

Northeast Baseball Moves Past St. Joseph Christian Before Falling to LaPlata in Elite Eight

Northeast moved past St. Joseph Christian 10-9 Tuesday before falling 7-1 to LaPlata Wednesday. Northeast had to take a six hour bus ride in order to play and hung in gamely, but a four run second inning led to their demise.

Despite the loss, Northeast had a lot of accomplishments to look back on. They set a school record in wins with 13, while they clinched a district title for the first time ever. They also won their fourth straight conference title, which seemed improbable after they dropped their first three games to start the season, including one to St. Joseph Christian, their foe from Tuesday evening.

The game was a war between brothers as Cody Green was the assistant coach for Northeast Nodaway, while Micah was an assistant for Christian. The two are the sons of Len and Rita Green; Len is the long-time Crossroads/Assembly of God pastor at Grant City. Len celebrated his 30th anniversary at the church last year.

Northeast’s victory marked the first time that Cody had beaten Micah in a baseball game ever. Christian had beaten Northeast 2-0 at the start of the year. A few years before, before Northeast started their current run of conference titles, Micah was coaching at South Nodaway and his Longhorns beat Northeast while Cody was an assistant. Perhaps the cheering section that Cody had at the game Tuesday provided the boost Northeast needed, as members of Cody’s youth group came over to cheer Northeast on.

This year was the first year that Christian had played baseball, but it didn’t seem like an expansion franchise was on the field. They had 25 players listed on the roster, and they were loaded from top to bottom. They started off slowly besides their win over Northeast, but caught fire towards the end of the season and ran away with the district title in Maryville while Northeast had to survive two cliffhangers against North Harrison and Green City.

It looked like Christian would run away with the game with Northeast as Bluejay pitcher Rowdy West froze Zach Maggart on strikes, but then ran into trouble right off the bat. Nobody was used to the lively infield at Northwest Missouri State; what would have been a routine grounder back in Ravenwood turned into a high hopper over shortstop Spencer Weir’s head as Zech Perkins reached on a scratch hit. Johnathan Wing singled to right; Elias Manners hit a pop fly on the infield and was automatically out, but nobody took charge and the ball dropped in and rolled away, allowing the runners to advance 90 feet to second and third.

All hell broke loose as Simon Maize singled through third and short as the lively infield meant nobody had a chance at the ball. That scored two more, Trevor Hartigan walked and Spencer Weir had more trouble with the lively infield as he misplayed a high hop, loading the bases. That brought up Jacob Burton, who singled in two to make it 4-0.

Northeast, who had hit good pitchers well all year, couldn’t do anything with Trevor Hartigan and all hell broke loose again in the second as nobody took charge of a pop fly, which was pushed into fair territory just inside the first base line by a stiff wind for an error. Zach Maggart reached on the miscue, took second on a balk, and came home on Jonathan Wing’s single. Elias Manners hit a screamer which would have cleared the park anywhere else, but crashed off the wall 380 feet from home plate for a triple; he came home on Simon Maize’s sac fly to make it 7-0.

Christian scored another run in the third, but thanks to the vast field, Northeast was saved much worst. Spencer Weir snared a screamer from Hagen Kimsey backhanded and then Jacob Burton hit a long drive to the warning track in dead center, 375 feet from home plate. But centerfielder Dylan Mildfeldt was built for Northwest’s park, and he had no problem tracking it down and hauling it in for a long out. Caleb Kelley then walked, took second and third on wild pitches as Maggart walked and scored when third baseman Ethan Adwell had trouble with the crazy bounces the ball was taking on the infield, making it 8-0.

It looked like it was only a matter of time before Christian would put more runs on the board and finish Northeast early, but all of a sudden, with one out, Hartigan began fighting the strike zone after Reed McIntyre and Spencer Weir started off the inning with singles. Chet Spire walked on four pitches and then McIntyre came home on a wild pitch. Andrew Freemyer struck out, but then Rowdy West singled down the right field line to plate two and make it 8-3. Ethan Adwell walked and then once again, the vast field worked to Northeast’s advantage. Brayden Welch hit a screamer into the gap in right center field; center fielder Zech Perkins closed the gap in a hurry, but dropped it as two runs came home as they were off with the crack of the bat with two outs. All of a sudden, Northeast was right back in the game, down 8-5.

With Elias Manners, who had hit it 380 feet his last time up, coming up to the plate, Coach Vance Proffitt ordered an intentional walk, which paid off as Manners was shot down stealing by catcher Andrew Freemyer. Simon Maize tried to back out of a 3-2 pitch, but was completely fooled as Rowdy West got the strikeout. Trevor Hartigan hit a screamer into the left center field gap, but Dylan Mildfeldt, losing his hat in the process, came up with the running catch for the final out of the fourth.
Once again, Northeast used the field to their advantage in the fourth as Chance Barber led off with a bunt, which died on the grass infield in front of the plate and he made it to first and took second on a wild pitch. Reed McIntyre struck out, but Spencer Weir took a high pitch and hit it to center for a base hit as Chance Barber scored. Christian tried to claim that Barber missed the plate, but he had dragged his foot across the bag, so the run counted.

Chet Spire popped out for the second out of the inning, but then Hartigan began fighting the strike zone again and walked Andrew Freemyer. Once again, the field helped Northeast out as a lively hop scooted past Zach Maggart at third for Rowdy West’s base hit and  scored Weir. The vast field helped Northeast again as Ethan Adwell’s pop fly dropped in for a base hit and Maverick Price (running for Freemyer) was safe on a close play. At that point, Hartigan was finished and Levi Glidwell came in to strike out Brayden Welch, but the damage was done and the game was tied at 8 after four.

Hagen Kimsey singled past Weir at short, but then Jacob Burton, who had hit a screamer earlier, popped out to Weir and Caleb Kelley grounded into a force at second. Zach Maggart came up with the top of the order, but Spencer Weir finally handled the lively infield and got him on a grounder to end the inning with the score still tied at 8.

Spencer Gray walked to start the fifth for Northeast and Dylan Mildfeldt, running for him, stole second and went to third on a wild pitch. Chance Barber walked and stole second. But it looked like Northeast’s chance to take the lead would go down the drain as Reed McIntyre struck out and Spencer Weir hit a grounder to Hagen Kimsey at second, and he threw out Mildfeldt at home on a close play despite Proffitt coming out and arguing the call.  But then Chet Spire, who had not gotten a hit yet, hit a screamer to the wall in left center field 380 feet from home plate for a double, scoring Weir and Barber and Northeast was up 10-8 after five.

After Lions coach Andrew McDonald called all his team and had an animated conversation with them, they woke up to their peril and Zech Perkins led off the sixth with a soft liner up the middle that dropped in for a single. Jonathan Wing hit a slow roller to Ethan Adwell at third; he had no play and everyone was safe. That brought up Elias Manners, who had already had a triple 380 feet from the plate, but West froze him for strike three before giving way to Spencer Weir. West had struggled at the start, but got stronger and stronger as the game progressed to keep Northeast in the game.
Weir gave up a single to Simon Maize to make it 10-9, but Trevor Hartigan flied out and Weir froze Hagen Kimsey to get out of the inning with Northeast still up 10-9.

Glidewell struck out the side for Christian in the seventh and Andrew Freemyer came in to try to close it out for Northeast. Jacob Burton went after a high pitch, but fouled it right into catcher Rowdy West’s glove for the first out. Caleb Kelley hit a grounder to Ethan Adwell, but his errant throw was over Reed McIntyre’s head and Garrett Cassity came in to run for Kelley. Zach Maggart tried to bunt, but bunted in the air and Andrew Freemyer caught the pop fly. But he tried to double off Cassity and there was a heartstopping moment as the ball squirted out of McIntyre’s glove down the right field line as Cassity took second. Zech Perkins came up and Freemyer just missed inside with a 2-2 pitch to make it 3-2. But then he froze Perkins for strike three as the sun came out for the first time all day.

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