The Sedalia Travelers opened the Zone Tournament on Thursday at Dey Field at Liberty Park with a 12-4 win over the Lee’s Summit Outlaws.
Every Travelers player who started the game scored at least one run as the team collected 14 hits in the game.
“Approaches were a lot better,” said Dom Zerilli. “We were having quality at bats whether it was a hit or even if it was an out, it was a quality out.”
Catcher Mason Kelchner came back from an injury and was back in the lineup for the first time in a month. He had a single, a double and a triple.
“It felt amazing (to be back),” he said. “I love being out here. I love playing baseball and it’s just a dream.”
In the District Tournament last week, errors hampered the Travelers. On Thursday, the defense came through, backing up pitchers Gable Dull, Gavin Jones and Trey Green.
Both teams saw line drives become double plays in the fourth. In the top of the inning, Rocky Sell was on first when Zerilli lined to Outlaws shortstop Alec Shuler who threw to first to double off Sell. In the bottom of the inning, the Outlaws had Justin Root on first when Grant Hill lined a ball directly to Chase Plymell who threw to first for the double play.
Green was helped by another double play to erase a lead-off walk in the eighth.
“We played a little better defensively,” said manager Jeff Mays. “We got a little practice in this week, got some ground ball work. It gets contagious so if good fielding can get contagious, we’ll be fine.”
The Travelers got on the board in the third. Kelchner led off with a double down the line in left and scored when Gehrig Taylor broke up a potential double play with a slide into second.
In the fifth, the Travelers struck again. Plymell hit a sharp grounder to first which Hill could not control. Kelchner followed with a triple into the gap in left-center to score Plymell and Kelchner scored when Jake Kindle singled past the drawn-in Hill.
Zerilli then drove in Jones with a double to the wall in center the sixth.
In the bottom of the sixth, Root got the Outlaws on the board with a bases-loaded single to cut the Travelers lead to 4-2, but the Travelers answered by batting around in the seventh and scoring three, then batting around again in the eighth to put five more on the board.
In the seventh, Baxter Mays lined a double down the line in right to score Taylor. Mays scored on a single by Sell and Plymell singled to drive in Brice Pannier.
In the eighth, Pannier doubled in Jake Kindle and scored on a single by Dull before Zerilli provided the big hit with a triple. Kelchner singled to drive in Zerilli.
“We swung the bat a lot better than we have the last couple of weeks,” Jeff Mays said. “It’s a good time to start hitting again.”
Five of the Travelers’ 14 hits went for extra bases.
“We were driving balls into gaps, a lot of doubles, triples,” Jeff Mays said. “The ground’s hard and it’s going to run to the wall if you get on it.”
The Travelers advance to the winners’ bracket semifinal to face Fike at 1 p.m. Friday at Liberty Park, feeling as though they enter that game with a new confidence.
“We found it again,” Zerilli said. “We lost it after that first game of districts but I think we found it again. We know if we execute, we should be really good.”