A five-run bottom of the sixth inning in which Smith-Cotton got no hits lifted S-C to an 11-8 win over Warrensburg in a West Central Conference baseball game Tuesday on Dey Field at Liberty Park.
Four different visiting pitchers issued a total of seven walks in the inning. Smith-Cotton senior third baseman Dakota Brown drew two of them. Three runs scored on bases-loaded walks and two more scored on wild pitches.
“You just wait until you get a strike and if you see it, you give it a ride and if not, wait until you get one,” said A.J. Paul.
It is the second time in four days Smith-Cotton put together a big inning based on walks. In the West Central Missouri Baseball Tournament win over Lafayette on Friday, Smith-Cotton scored eight runs in one inning on one hit.
“We’re really conservative,” Paul said. “We have very good approaches (Tuesday) and in the last game when we came back from down by seven runs. We just wait and if we don’t see it, we don’t swing at it.”
On Tuesday, Warrensburg came into the sixth inning with an 8-6 lead and starter Cody Roop pitching well.
Brown drew a leadoff walk and Chance McMullin walked with one out. After a Warrensburg pitching change brought in Jaxon Janvrin, his first pitch to Steven Bradbury went back to the screen, scoring Brown from third. Bradbury was hit by a pitch and Nick Hagedorn walked to load the bases. Dom Zerilli then drew a walk to bring home McMullin with the tying run. Another wild pitch scored Bradbury and walks to Paul, Dalton Zaremba and Brown scored two more runs.
“We were taking the first pitch for the most part and making him make some adjustments on the mound and he just didn’t,” said Smith-Cotton coach Jud Kindle. “We capitalized on not being too overly aggressive, just taking a good approach at the plate and taking what he gives us.”
Austin Bullerd came on in relief and got the win for Smith-Cotton. He relieved starter Taylor Schubert in the fourth with the scored tied at 6 with two on and gave up a single to the first man he faced, scoring two. But Bullerd caught the next man looking to end the inning.
“The reason we won that game was because of Austin,” Kindle said. “Their bats were extremely hot at the time, they had seven hits in (the fourth) inning, no walks. Schubert didn’t do anything wrong, that’s what we preach are strikes. But Bullerd won us that game by coming in and being able to ice their bats.”
Bullerd worked 3 1-3 innings and allowed no runs on two hits, striking out two and walking no one. He settled down after the fourth, retiring six batters in a row and pitching one-two-three innings in the fifth and seventh.
“After that (fifth) inning, I just felt like I was on cruise control,” Bullerd said.
Jacob Terry got a two-out single off of Bullerd in the sixth, but Smith-Cotton catcher Hagedorn threw Terry out trying to steal for the final out of the inning. It was the second runner Hagedorn caught stealing in the game.
“That gives me so much confidence as a pitcher, knowing that I have a catcher that is good defensively and can help me out,” Bullerd said.
Schubert pitched scoreless innings in the first and second, helped by Hagedorn throwing a runner out in the first and a 6-4-3 double play to end the second. A two-out error in the third was followed by a pair of hits, resulting in two unearned runs against Schubert.
Warrensburg’s bats then came alive in the fourth. After base hits from Kye Denker and Jacob Carter to lead off the inning, Cody Lowry drove them both in with a single. Lowry scored on a single by Brad Cox, and back-to-back singles by Terry and Matt Zembroski scored two more to make it 6-6. Terry and Zembroski scored on Kevin Hardin’s single off Bullerd, but the visitors never scored again in the game.
Smith-Cotton got on the board in the first inning when Paul hit a bases-loaded single to score Bradbury and Lane McFail.
“I try not to think too much when I hit,” Paul said. “I just saw the pitch and put it right over the second baseman.”
After Warrensburg tied the game 2-2, Smith-Cotton scored four in the bottom of the third. Zerilli doubled to drive home Bradbury and Paul followed with a single to left-center to score Zerilli.
“A.J.’s a good hitter,” Kindle said. “He’s made a lot of adjustments to his swing in the offseason to be a more consistent hitter, and he’s really barrelled up a few balls. We’ve been excited with the way A.J.’s been starting to hit the ball.”
Smith-Cotton added another in the third on an error, and Paul scored on a sacrifice fly from Brown.
Smith-Cotton bats were quiet through the fourth and fifth innings, as Roop got out of one jam with a double play and retired the hosts one-two-three in the fifth. But S-C broke through in the sixth for the win.
Smith-Cotton (9-3, 3-0 WCC) will host Lee’s Summit on Thursday.