Mark Bradford wasn’t about to let two rotten innings wipe out what had been an otherwise successful run of wood-bat baseball for the Lee’s Summit Outlaws.
The Outlaws, after all, did reach the quarterfinals of the 29th annual American Legion Wood Bat Invitational, winning three of four five pool play games along the way. That’s what Bradford and the players he manages will take away from four days of baseball last week.
Not the two, error-filled four-run innings they stumbled through against Post 218 of Washington, Mo., that led to a 9-1 six-inning defeat in Saturday’s quarterfinals at Hidden Valley Park in Blue Springs. As well as the Outlaws have played this summer, Bradford could consider those mere aberrations.
“It was a good tournament,” Bradford said. “I can’t complain. Just one bad game at the wrong time.”
And it turned bad quickly for the Outlaws, who had beaten Washington 4-0 just over a month ago. Washington put up its first four-spot in the second inning, not long after the Outlaws took a 1-0 lead when Hayden Bradford led off the game with a single and scored on an error.
Outlaws starter Jeremy Root gave up a walk and a single to begin the second. Another base hit by Quinton Poepsez that glanced off the glove of Outlaws third baseman Justin Root brought home Washington’s first run.
After Jeremy Root hit a batter to load the bases one out later, Washington’s Jake Jinkerson rolled a bunt that Jeremy Root fielded near the mound. Root threw to first, but first baseman Grant Hill wasn’t covering the bag. Second baseman Gunnar Gronberg raced to first but couldn’t get there in time to field Root’s throw, which rolled into the outfield as Washington cleared the bases.
“It was just miscommunication on all of our (parts),” Gronberg said. “I thought Grant was staying home, he thought I was coming to cover and I was playing double play depth and I’m just not the quickest.”
“That kicked it off the wrong way and it kept going,” Bradford said. “We kind of got caught sleeping on that play.”
It got ugly again when Washington tallied four more runs with the help of two errors in the fourth. A hit batter and a dropped fly ball put two runners on base, and Washington’s Gus Kleekamp followed with a grounder that went off Hill’s glove for another error that led to a run. Washington scored three more with two singles and a groundout.
When Washington scored again to go up eight runs in the sixth, the game and the Outlaws’ tournament run, was over.
“It was probably the fourth game like this out of the 37 we played,” said Bradford, whose team stood 27-10 overall after the tournament. “Like I told them, it’s a bad day let’s shake it off.”
Bradford said it was the first time the Outlaws had made the Wood Bat quarterfinals two consecutive seasons, and only the fifth time they had made it that far. They went 3-1 in pool play, which they wrapped up with a 12-6 victory over Union Bank of Lincoln, Neb., on Thursday and a 1-0 walk-off loss to Jefferson City Post 5 on Friday.
Post 5, a team made up mostly of players from Jefferson City’s Class 5 state champions, won with a two-out RBI single in the bottom of the seventh, one of only three hits surrendered by Outlaws starter Ryan Suholaski. Jefferson City went on to beat Rod’s A’s 3-2 in eight innings in Sunday’s tournament championship.
The Outlaws, who were also held to three hits, had a runner thrown out at the plate in the sixth inning.
The Outlaws tallied 16 hits against Union Bank, with Hayden Bradford going four for four with four runs and Justin McEnroe finishing three for five with two doubles and three RBIs.
That was a more typical day for the Outlaws, which made Saturday’s loss easier to forget.
“It was just a rough day,” Gronberg said. “It was a good tournament overall though. There’s a lot of positives to take away from this weekend. We made it to Saturday and that’s definitely a plus.”