By Eric Ingles Democrat Sports Editor
July 24, 2014
With the Lee’s Summit Pirates and Fike set to begin the Zone Tournament at Liberty Park on Thursday, the Sedalia Travelers were playing a different game. A group of Travelers gathered behind the batting cages for a game of pepper.
It’s something the team has done at times throughout the season but they’ve gotten more serious about playing it within the last couple of weeks.
“It helps our hand-eye (coordination), but it’s really just team bonding,” said catcher Mason Kelchner.
The Travelers turn their focus from pepper to baseball today as they open play in the Zone Tournament at 1 p.m. at Dey Field. The come into the tournament having won the district tournament last week and looking to pick up right where they left off.
A.J. Paul said from his team, he’s looking for “nothing but the best, all they have. If they give all they have, there’s nothing more I can ask for.”
Heading into the Zone Tournament, Travelers manager Jade Samborski just wants his team to stay loose and keep doing what it’s been doing all year.
“They’ve consistently played hard,” he said. “We talk about running a hard 90 (feet between bases). We talk about taking two bases, running in and out, just playing the game the right way. We didn’t change anything last week and we started winning.”
By winning last weekend, the Travelers earned a bye Thursday and the right to open the tournament this afternoon against a team which already had to play one game.
“It helps with pitching,” Samborski said. “But it only helps if you come out and you win that first game. If not, you’re one game and right into the losers bracket. It helps to have the team we’re going to play, play (Thursday) and use up their pitching.”
The Travelers had to take that route through the losers bracket last week, dropping the first game Friday night before coming back to win the next three.
“Everybody’s behind each other,” Kelchner said. “We’re really playing as a team right now, especially the last three games. We went into district kind of slow but then we picked it up. We were cheering for everybody. We weren’t getting down on anybody else. It was really motivating for everyone.”
Kelchner said he’s been seeing good things from his pitching staff.
“They’re hitting spots really well,” he said. “They’re listening to me and they’re listening to our coaches. When we see something that a guy consistently does, consistently hitting somewhere, we move our defense or we pitch him differently.”