The Battle Spartans set the scene for an upset Saturday.
They were the low-seed at their home field. The Tigers’ outfield lost a fly ball and muffed a bare hand play at shortstop in the first inning. The Spartans fired up the crowd with a leadoff triple in the second.
Yet it was Smith-Cotton catching their breath in celebration after seven frames. A 2-out rally in the fifth, capped off by a Gavin Jones bases-clearing double lifted the Tigers to a 5-4 victory over Battle in the Class 5, District 9 baseball tournament.
After an emotionally draining contest Saturday, Jones said the team is not only prepared for Monday’s opponent Jefferson City – but anything else.
“Well, that was the most exciting game I’ve ever played in,” Jones said. “So, we’re good to go.”
Ramirez, who pitched a complete game, said he never lost faith in the S-C offense and agreed with Jones’ ambition.
“I knew we were going to pull it out,” Ramierez said. “We always do. That’s what I was expecting the whole time. I knew something like that would happen eventually.
“We’re going for it,” Ramirez said.
Down 4-1, Dalton Zaremba stretched a misplayed grounder into a double with one out in the fifth. Seth Fraley scored Zaremba on a bloop single. Nick Hagedorn fired the first pitch of his at-bat to Battle’s second baseman and reached on an error.
Chase Plymell followed with an RBI single, and Jones cleared the bases after rifling a 2-2 changeup to the left field fence.
Jones, who struck out twice against Spartan starter Lane Threlkeld, said he learned from earlier at-bats.
“The past two appearances he got me two strikes and threw me changeup,” Jones said. “He just made a mistake and I took advantage of it. He threw me a changeup – he had been throwing it outside – down the middle.”
Threkeld made few mistakes throughout the game. Two balks in the second inning scored Plymell for the first Tigers’ run.
Battle head coach Jared Wood said his pitcher had the right intentions.
We’ve been working for him to get quicker and quicker, because he’s kind of slow with his delivery,” Wood said. “So I think he was just trying to be too quick … It’s something we’ve been working hard on, but it is what it is.”
Smith-Cotton head coach Jud Kindle also said Threkeld’s effort was commendable.
“That guy kept us off-balance for most of the game,” Kindle said. “We finally got to him late, made some adjustments at the plate, he made some mistakes, I think he was starting to get tired.”
After claiming a 1-run lead, the Smith-Cotton defense sparkled.
Ramirez worked around a leadoff triple with a strikeout, and induced a groundball double play when Micheal TreMorris was called out for obstruction at second.
In the sixth, Hagedorn threw out Mitchell Platero attempting to steal second. In the seventh, Zaremba tracked down a fly ball in the right-center gap for the first out. Jones sealed the game by snagging a Payton Roberts line drive and doubling up the runner at second.
First pitch today between Smith-Cotton and Jefferson City at Battle High School is 7:30 p.m.
Alex Agueros can be reached at 660-826-1000, ext. 1483 or on Twitter @abagueros2