It was a bases-clearing strikeout.
In a game otherwise determined by sturdy play on both sides, Smith-Cotton separated from Hickman Wednesday at Liberty Park in Sedalia after the third strike of Gavin Jones’ at-bat escaped the Kewpie defense.
It was a strikeout, wild pitch and error. Three outs later, Smith-Cotton sealed a 4-2 victory and improved to 21-3 on the season.
With the bases loaded in the sixth, Dakota Solomon’s offering was a swinging strike, but bounced away from Hickman catcher Forrest Wilson. The ball meandered just far enough for a breaking Baxter Mays to score from third.
Solomon mishandled the feed tagging Mays, allowing Jake Kindle to force another play at the plate. He was safe as the ball again escaped Hickman control. Dalton Zaremba was tagged out attempting to score from first.
“That was a good read by Baxter (Mays),” head coach Jud Kindle said of the Tigers’ final offensive frame. “In that situation, Gavin Jones is who we want up. Strikeout or no strikeout, he’s one of our best hitters. We were in the right spot: loaded bases with Gavin up.”
Jones was a productive out machine on both sides of the ball. He collected two RBIs on the game-winning strikeout and beat out a double-play in the fourth to tie the game at two. Jones also had seven putouts on as many attempts at shortstop.
Nick Hagedorn put the Tigers on the board with a solo home run in the third. With Hagedorn ahead in the count, Wilson met with Hickman starter Nick King and
“I was just looking fastball,” Hagedorn said. “If it was anything else I wasn’t swinging.”
Smith-Cotton starter Jace Simoncic allowed two Hickman runs on four singles in the second inning. He faced three over the minimum the rest of the way, allowing six hits total and striking out three.
“I tried to include my cutter a lot and pitch to contact,” Simoncic said. “Let my boys make the plays.”
Hagedorn, Smith-Cotton’s catcher Wednesday, said the cut fastball was effective when pitching to contact.
“We were throwing it in fastball counts, and, even if it breaks 2 to 3 inches, it helps,” Hagedorn said.
The Tigers loaded the bases in the second, fourth and sixth innings. Limited on timely hits, three slides into home on a costly Hickman error left Smith-Cotton victorious, and also a bit speechless.
“I don’t know how to explain it,” Hagedorn said, recounting the Tigers’ final act in the sixth. “The ball hit the dirt, hit the catcher’s helmet, and shot out. And then I don’t know what happened … I just saw people kept running and the ball kept flying.”
Alex Agueros can be reached at 660-826-1000, ext. 1483 or on Twitter @abagueros2