The Lee’s Summit Outlaws were two wins away from the American Legion state baseball championship Saturday. Problem was, those two wins would have to come against a powerful Jefferson City Post 5 squad.
The Outlaws got halfway there.
After tearing up Jefferson City 9-1 in the first game, the Outlaws fell behind early in the second game and saw their season end with a seven-inning 13-3 loss in a winner-take-all final in the American Legion State Baseball Tournament at Liberty Park in Sedalia.
“Beating that team twice on the same day is a tall order,” Outlaws manager Mark Bradford said.
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Jefferson City, 29-8, had won 12 straight games before their first encounter with the Outlaws in the double-elimination tournament. Lee’s Summit jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the first inning and erupted for 18 hits, with Justin McEnroe going three for six with four RBIs and Hayden Bradford also three for six with three runs scored.
That was more than enough to back starting pitcher Ryan Suholaski, who held Jefferson City to one earned run and seven hits with two walks.
“We came out full of adrenaline and we got on them quick,” Bradford said. “Jeff City is good but they didn’t play a great game. We kept on them and kept on them.”
But Jefferson City, made up mostly of players from Jefferson City High School’s Class 5 state champions, returned to form in the second game. Post 5 took a 5-0 lead in the top of the first inning on three hits and three errors.
The Outlaws got two runs back in the bottom of the first, but Jefferson City starter Ryan Paschal retired the Outlaws in order the next three innings. Paschal held the Outlaws to eight hits, a walk and two earned runs over seven innings.
After opening with a 7-5 loss to Festus on Thursday, the Outlaws bounced back with two close victories Friday to set up the showdown with Jefferson City. They beat Zone 2 rival Rod’s Sports A’s 3-2 in 12 innings, with Grant Hill’s RBI single scoring the walk-off run. Hill’s hit scored Jason Gonzalez, who drew a bases-loaded walk in the bottom of the ninth to plate Oscar Medrano in the bottom of the ninth to tie the game.
Outlaws starter Gunnar Gronberg picked up the win, holding the A’s to two runs on three hits with seven strikeouts over eight innings.
The Outlaws then avenged their earlier loss to Festus with a 4-3 victory, scoring all four runs in the seventh inning, two of them on a double by McEnroe. Matt Campbell gave up five hits and struck out six over 8 1/3 innings, and Hayden Bradford got the save by wriggling out of a two-on, two-out jam.
“Those two games were really good,” Bradford said. “We played 21 innings that day and they were both one-runners.”
But the Outlaws’ season would come to an end the next day. They finished 35-10, and their trip to the state tournament was only the second in the team’s history. Jefferson City advanced to the Mid-South Regional tournament in New Orleans.
“They made it to the last possible game you could play in the state of Missouri,” Bradford said. “I thought we had the capability of doing it and we wound up doing it. I’m definitely happy with how it went.”