If wearing the white hats for the first time in four years wasn’t incentive enough, the Boonville Pirates baseball team had another reason for wanting to win Wednesday’s game against the Kirksville Tigers at Twillman field in Harley park.
Honoring Kenny Lang, who recently passed away, the Pirates brought out their white caps Wednesday night in the championship in the Class 4 District Tournament against the Tigers.
The move appear to pay off as the Pirates rallied from a 3-0 deficit after 1 1/2 to beat Kirksville 8-3.
Boonville, 22-1 on the season, will now advance to the sectional round of the state playoffs against the winner of District 7 on Tuesday, May 22nd in Boonville. Boonville Athletic Director Chris Shikles said a starting time will be determined after the District 7 championship game on Thursday.
Boonville Pirates baseball coach Fred Smith said Kenny Lang was a big supporter and that’s why they wore the hats. “It was great that Reece (Lang) came in and did a great job at the end,” Smith said. “Go back a week, they had the funeral for Mr. Lang and we gave the family a white cap. That’s the first time we have ever broke out and wore the white caps in a ballgame. We always wore them to meetings and stuff but we never wore them in a game.”
The Pirates also made a little history of their own with a four straight district title. Smith said it’s a pretty good feeling to win four district titles in a row and three conference titles.
“They are all a lot of fun and every team is a little different but this team, that was the motto 3-2-3 (Win it all) and right now what are we 22-1, so we have darn near won them all,” Smith said. “But this is a great group of kids and have been with them for four years. I’m proud as heck of them so we’ll live for another day.”
Even with the five run cushion, the Pirates still had a few tense moments in the game. While it was obvious that senior pitcher Jared Viertel didn’t have his best stuff, he still managed to pick up his 10th straight victory by giving up just three runs on three hits and two walks in five innings. He also struck out seven batters. As for Lang, the junior lefty dominated in his two innings pitched and allowed just one hit while striking out two batters.
“Obviously Jared had good stuff but didn’t have great command tonight,” Smith said. “His pitch count got up there so we brought in Reece, who was just pheromonal to close it out.”
Smith also knew his team was in for a dogfight after Kirksville put up three runs in the top-half of the second on a two run home run to center by Blake Howard and a RBI-double to right by Colton Gillespie.
“When they scored three I thought oh boy we are in for a dogfight and I have to get these guys motivated because the first inning we hit three fly balls,” Smith said. “But again the middle of the lineup hit the ball really well today. Avery Reardon had a great ballgame and sparked a couple of different rallies for us. Everybody contributed in some way or another and that is what it takes as far as team.”
The Pirates also had their own version of long ball, though. In the very same inning, Boonville rallied with five runs on five hits to lead Kirksville 5-3. Although the three run home run to left by Connor Barnes put the Pirates on top 4-3, the inning started several batters earlier after a one out single to right by Reardon, a hit batter and a RBI-single to center by Carson Campbell.
Senior Kole Ficken and junior Dylan Watson also kept the inning going with a single and double, respectively.
“Connor’s home run was huge,” Smith said. “No. 1 it gave us confidence because it put us up by 1. It was like the wake up call we needed.”
Boonville never trailed after that while adding two more runs in the third  on one single, three walks and two wild pitches to extend the lead to 7-3. Then, in the fifth, the Pirates tacked on another run for insurance on a double to right center field by Barnes and a RBI-single by Ficken to make it 8-3.
Barnes, who was perfect in two games in the tournament, had another three hits against Kirksville with a single, double, home run and three RBIs.
Reardon also had a three hit game, all of which were singles. Ficken and Carson Campbell added two singles and one RBI each while Dylan Watson had one double and one RBI and Ben Horst with one single.
For Kirksville, Braden Smith went 2-for-3 with two singles. Howard homered and Gillespie doubled.
Blake Lewis took the loss for the Tigers.