Less than two months ago, it was unclear if the Sedalia Bombers could take the heat. The club won three games through its first 10, suffered a bullpen meltdown and averaged about three runs a game.
It was not that long ago. But the Sedalia Bombers, MINK League Champions for the first time since 2010, have come a long way.
For some, the Bombers’ championship run – capped off by an 8-1 victory over the Ozark Generals on Saturday at Dey Field at Liberty Park Stadium – occurred in fast-forward.
“Looking back in it, in the beginning, I thought it was going to be a long summer — a hot summer,” Sedalia catcher Rob Cummins said. “I’m from Southern California, so the humidity is a little different, the heat is different. At this point, it feels like the summer went by so fast, because we had so much fun.”
Game two of the MINK League Championship series the final reminder of Sedalia’s early struggles.
In a game that started around 10:30 p.m. Friday and ended near 1 a.m., MINK League North All-Star starter and Pitcher of the Year, Justin Murphy, surrendered four runs on four walks and a hit-by-pitch during a 10-4 loss.
The loss was Sedalia’s first since July 11, as the Bombers (32-14) won 13 of its last 15 games en route its league title since joining the MINK League in 2009.
Cummins led off the first inning of game three with a double down the third base line, and scored on a Justin Holt single in the next at-bat. The Bombers added another run on a Jonathan Ramon grounder after Ozark’s first baseman lost a throw from third base in the sun.
The Bombers used five pitchers in the championship effort. Tolbert allowed two baserunners in three innings. Louis Niemerg also pitched three innings, striking out three and picking off two. Tyler Hutchinson, Blaine Fisher and Cody Creed pitched an inning apiece.
Jordan Dey, a Sedalia native playing his final game at Liberty Park Stadium, finished his playing career with an RBI single up the middle. John Privitera entered to pinch run, and the stadium’s audience stood and cheered for Dey, who was greeted by teammates in the dugout with hugs.
Just one drop fell on Sedalia’s parade. Evan Gruener took Creed deep on the first pitch of the ninth inning – a long drive to left-center field.
The ninth-inning shot was a rare fly ball the Sedalia outfield was unable to flag down. Up-the-middle defense was an asset for the Bombers by the end of the season.
Smith, in left, was a MINK League All-Star, while McAndrews called Holt the best defensive outfielder he’s coached in Sedalia.
Devin Morrill turned one double play Saturday and saved a hit with a sliding, backhand play in the seventh. Cummins, another All-Star, caught every inning of Sedalia’s last six games.
“Our defense was very, very good at the end of the year,” Cummins said. “We meshed and figured it out, and we were a good team by the end of the year.”
Smith added to the Bombers lead with style in the seventh inning, stealing home, almost silently, to no throw. Ryan Mantle, 3-for-4 Saturday, punched in Alex Bee in the next at-bat. The Bombers collected 16 hits on the night, against four Ozark pitchers. Garrett Schilling took the loss.
McAndrews credited Bombers general manager, Jud Kindle, for access to the Kindle Baseball Academy throughout the season.
“We made an adjustment with young guys and got to the (batting) cages,” McAndrews said. “We did early work, and I can’t thank Jud Kindle enough. Without Jud Kindle, the Sedalia Bombers do not go on.”
An error and two singles gave Sedalia a comfortable, 5-0 lead in the third inning. Niemerg, who got the win Thursday in game one of the series, relieved Jake Tolbert to start the fourth. Tolbert earned the win Saturday.
Alex Agueros can be reached at 660-826-1000, ext. 1483 or on Twitter @abagueros2